It can be easy to forget about privacy when you’re reeling off commands like the captain of the Starship Enterprise!
From voice recognition assistants to fridges that can write your shopping list, smart devices make homelife simpler, more efficient, more exciting, and perfectly tailored to our personal tastes. The number of IoT-connected devices already hit 7.6 billion last year. By 2030, it’s predicted to reach a staggering 24.1 billion – that’s more than three devices per person on the planet!
And while smart devices have begun to reshape the way we live, it’s important that we think about what that means for our privacy and personal data.
But before we don the tinfoil hat and 5G protection scarves (yes, they genuinely exist) let’s put the brakes on. There are already plenty of things we can do as consumers to safeguard privacy and prevent our data from being taken without our consent, while reaping the full benefits of a smart home.
Acting as a virtual personal assistant, as well as providing amazing quality music reproduction, smart speakers are becoming an indispensable feature of a modern smart home, and sales show no sign of slowing down.
Still, a report by NPR and Edison Research found that 63% of people don’t own a smart speaker because they are worried that hackers could gain access to their personal data, while 59% of people who do own smart speakers say they have privacy concerns.
The first rule to follow when using a smart speaker is to never share sensitive information with your smart speaker. Anything that you wouldn’t tell a stranger, don’t tell Alexa, Siri & co. Think passwords and bank numbers.
Next, go into the app settings and make a few adjustments. For Amazon speakers, go to Settings > Alexa Privacy and turn off “help improve Amazon services” and “use messages to improve transcriptions.”
For Google speakers, go to Settings > More Settings > Your Data and click pause data collection.
Apple is ahead of the game when it comes to the privacy of its users. The company no longer retains audio of Siri interactions, offering ‘opt-in’ data sharing, rather than the standard opt-out. The ‘opt-in’ system seems like the future of smart home privacy.
For all smart speakers, you can also review and delete all recorded conversations and commands. You’ll be able to find this under ‘review voice history’ or similar in the settings menu of your device’s app.
Smart security devices in the home should make us feel safe and protected – that’s their entire purpose. So, when questions emerge about who has access to our in-home footage, it’s understandable that smart security devices can be subject to scrutiny.
With a recent controversy over Amazon supposedly sharing surveillance footage with police departments and governments, as well as to the company sharing data with Facebook and Google, it’s clear that users need to be aware of the potential privacy invasions when it comes to in-home security devices and take the right measures to ensure the footage can’t be accessed by anyone else.
Whether you’re using Ring or any other smart security devices, always look through the app security settings. Enable two-factor authentication, disable information sharing with third parties and always monitor which devices are connected to your smart security device, removing any you don’t recognize.
As always, make sure you change the default password when you install the device and update the password regularly.
Most TVs now come with out-of-the-box functionality, meaning that once it’s on the wall it’s ready to go. But by failing to flick through the settings menus, we miss the opportunity to take advantage of the privacy and security settings offered by our smart TVs.
Modern smart TVs monitor and analyze everything you watch, building an intricate, cross-platform picture of your viewing habits. For those with a vested interest, this info is pure gold – mining your downtime data in this way enables personalized advertising and helps compile tailored recommendations for shows, films, and products.
If you don’t want companies to have access to this data, all you need to do is turn off automatic content recognition (ACR). You’ll usually find this option in your general or advantaged settings, under something like ‘viewing data or ‘viewing information.’
Many smart TVs also come with a built-in camera or microphone as standard. You should be able to disable them through the settings menu too – don’t forget to ask a Buddy if you need help.
One of the most important devices in your home is your WiFi router. It’s the central hub of your smart home to which all other devices are connected. If someone gains access to your WiFi – whether a neighbor or a remote hacker – they could potentially gain access to all connected devices too. So, when it comes to protecting your privacy, shoring up your WiFi is crucial.
Open up your WiFi’s configuration page in your internet browser – you’ll find the IP address and password (if you haven’t changed it yet) on your WiFi router. There, you’ll be able to make a few key adjustments to your network setting to make your WiFi more secure
First off, as always, start with the passwords. Change your WiFi password regularly – around 2–3 months. While you’ll need to reconnect your devices each time you do this, it will make it harder for attackers to gain access to your WiFi.
Turn off universal plug and play (UPnP). It’s a feature of your home WiFi that helps devices get connected, but after they’re set up it serves little purpose and can leave your network open to hackers. Also, disable WiFi-protected setup (WPS). Again, this is a feature that makes it extra easy to connect new devices. Unfortunately, it also makes it too easy for hackers to access your WiFi router, thereby gaining access to all connected devices.
Keep your home safe and protect your privacy – if you need help with any of the above suggestions, contact a Buddy today!