David Papp Blog

Is Your Smart Home Tracking You?

Who’s tracking you?

According to CBC News, Smart TV maker Vizio is paying out 2.2 million dollars to the US Federal Trade Commission and other authorities. The reason? They tracked what viewers were watching without consent. Users of their “Smart Interactivity” feature unknowingly sacrificed privacy in exchange for automatic suggestions based on viewing habits.

Imagine turning on the TV to watch the big game. You turn up the thermostat and grab a cold drink from the fridge. The game is in overtime, and the referee just made a bad call.

With smart new appliances connected in the Internet of Things (IoT), every move you’ve just made could be tracked and shared … from grabbing a brew to yelling at the ref.

And we don’t even notice it. We expect Google to track our searches. However, we don’t think about companies collecting data from our kids x-box, the thermostat, or the fridge.

With mics on Televisions accepting voice commands, even what we say in our homes will be picked up…. think about that one for a sec.

Monitoring grows every year. Fitness bands, smart watches, and other wearable tech constantly collect data. Consumer sleeping patterns and movements are recorded. Data from light switches, remote locks, and light bulbs in smart homes is shared. And consumers controlling their homes with smartphones risk exposing private information to hackers.

According to Intel, there will be an average of 26 connected IoT products owned per person worldwide by 2020. The possibilities for data-sharing will only grow.

Feeling uncomfortable about that?

You’re in good company. A report by Altimeter showed that 78% of those surveyed are very concerned about companies sharing data with other companies. And half of consumers are uncomfortable about the idea of their data being used and sold in general.

However, that doesn’t always stop us from checking the “I agree” box without thinking or reading the fine print.

So what are we really agreeing to?

Samsung’s website indicates the company uses data to create a better user experience.

Their smart TV collects information about viewing so it can users find programs that will interest them most. However, it also shares information “to return content or advertising ‘synched’ to what they’re watching.”

If you use Samsung’s voice recognition, what you say, “may be transmitted (along with information about your device, including device identifiers) to a third-party service provider.” I know a lot of people with televisions in their bedrooms.

The good news is that most of the data is not connected to any personal information. And voice commands are converted to text and analyzed to help the software work more efficiently.

In the end, many consider privacy loss a small price for tech that improves their lives.

For years, consumers have allowed themselves to be tracked when they benefit. Credit card rewards programs, grocery store value cards, and frequent flyer programs continue to thrive.

CPAP machines collect data for analysis to help users get better sleep.

Another Samsung product, the Family Hub refrigerator, hooks up to your Google calendar and online shopping lists. You can browse online, scribble a note to the kids, or watch TV on the large touchscreen. Track expiration dates and make an online shopping order for home delivery. Stuck at the grocery store and wondering if you’re out of milk? Just use your smartphone app to get the inside camera view.

And who knows … your new smart TV could curtail endless flipping between channels by sending you shows you want to watch. Your smart thermostat will help you optimize heating and cooling. And savvy marketers are more likely to save you time finding the products you really do want and need.

Note: always remember to read privacy policies, update your devices, and use strong passwords for your own protection. Yes, there is a price to pay for all the “conveniences” we enjoy.