All of those new smart devices may be getting a little too smart. New research on a variety of smart devices like televisions, voice-activated speakers and even refrigerators finds that many of them send user data to third parties like Amazon or Netflix, even if the user has no other connection to those parties. The report from Northeastern University and the Imperial College of London looked at 81 smart-home devices in the U.S. and U.K. to find how much data is collected and where it is sent.
It's no secret that devices like smart speakers raise privacy concerns with their ability to track and even listen in to users, but this research shows where that info ends up. Johnny Hemberger, host of Geek Therapy Radio on KPRC AM-950 and the Geek Therapy Radio podcast, says this shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone familiar with modern technology. "We've had the cell phone in our pocket for years, and they've always been able to triangulate our position...so this is nothing new," he tells KTRH.
Hemberger believes anyone who chooses to put a connected device into their home should expect to lose some privacy. "I don't think it is anything nefarious or evil, it's just so they can more effectively market to you," he says. "But it is very important in this day and age that we are aware of that."
There are ways to minimize exposure of your data on smart devices. "The safest thing to do is to unplug the device and disconnect it from the internet," says Hemberger. "For instance, (Amazon) Alexa connects to your Wi-Fi, so if you don't want Alexa listening to you, she can't hear anything if she doesn't have power. So just plug (the device) in when you want to use it, and unplug it when you don't."