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Smart home devices are a privacy nightmare, study finds Amazon Alexa and Google Home are the worst offenders Firstpost

Smart home devices are a privacy nightmare, study finds Amazon Alexa and Google Home are the worst offenders Firstpost


Amazon's Alexa collected sensitive data on 28 of the 32 data points, including addresses, locations, photos, videos, voice data, and browsing history. Google collected data on 22 of the data points. Read more

The smart home market has grown steadily over the past decade, with Statista predicting the number of users worldwide to reach 785.16 million by 2028. While these devices offer convenience, they also raise serious privacy concerns. Is our home still our private sanctuary?

A recent study by Surfsharks research hub “Smart Home Privacy Checker” found that one in ten smart home apps collects data for tracking purposes. The study highlighted that apps from tech giants like Amazon and Google are the biggest data consumers, and are used by millions of people every day.

“In today's world where convenience often trumps privacy, our research uncovers a disturbing trend, especially in smart home device apps from major companies like Amazon and Google. This issue goes beyond just data collection; it invades users' private lives and could lead to data theft, security breaches, and unlimited sharing of personal information,” said Goda Sukackaite, Privacy Counsel at Surfshark.

Sukackaite advises users to proactively manage their privacy settings, check app permissions, and stay informed about the data policies of their smart home devices.

The study analyzed 290 apps connected to over 400 Internet of Things (IoT) devices, focusing on the most popular ones. Surfshark looked at 32 potential data points for each app, focusing on user identity, tracking, and data links. Apps were ranked based on the amount and type of data they collected.

The worst offenders are Amazon and Google: Amazon's Alexa app collects 28 of the 32 data points, more than three times the average for smart home devices, according to the study, and all of the data collected is linked to individual user profiles, including precise location, contact information, and health-related data.

Google's smart home devices collected 22 of the 32 data points, again well above average. Notable data points include address, location, photos, videos, audio data, and browsing history.

This extensive data collection poses risks to user privacy, can be exploited for targeted advertising, and, if mishandled, can also be used for malicious purposes.

Users pay first with their wallet and then with their data. Often, users pay twice for their smart devices: once with money and once with data. These apps may track users to show targeted ads or share information with third parties and data brokers.

About a third of the apps focus on collecting data points such as device IDs, email addresses, product interactions, and even precise location tracking – examples include Canary-Smart Home Security and NuWave Connect.

Outdoor security cameras are particularly data-hungry, collecting an average of 12 data points – 50% more than other devices – and apps like Deep Sentinel and Lorex contribute to this wealth of data collection.

“Consumers should think about the personal information they are providing before purchasing a smart device, especially if that data is shared with third parties,” said Darius Berejevas, cybersecurity expert at Incogni. “Our research shows that one in ten smart home apps track user data, which could lead to a loss of control over personal information, increased risk of security breaches, and unwanted targeted advertising.”

Outdated privacy practices The study also found that 12 of the 290 apps analyzed had not updated their data collection practices in more than a year, raising concerns about transparency and compliance with privacy laws.

In particular, apps like MekaMon and Cozmo that control children's toys collect sensitive information, such as precise location, photos and audio recordings.

As smart home devices become increasingly integrated into our daily lives, users must remain vigilant about privacy and the potential risks associated with these technologies.




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