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To buy or not to buy: Hot tech products that put your privacy at risk

Our smart devices are constantly gathering information about us, whether we like it or not. Even gadgets you might not expect like smart speakers and TVs are learning about your habits and preferences every time you use them.

That’s why web developer Mozilla puts together a list each holiday season of the privacy-skirting tech gifts to avoid. Tap or click here to see which items made the list last year.

This list breaks down the privacy gotchas surrounding some of the year’s most popular gadgets. It also includes several safe alternatives that are sure to make your loved ones smile without putting their privacy at risk. We’ll show you which devices made the cut in 2020.

Buy these gifts, not those ones

Mozilla’s annual Privacy Not Included report is designed to help shoppers find out which gifts are taking advantage of user data this holiday season.

Each entry on the “naughty list” explains why the items are creepy for your privacy, and Mozilla’s safer choices have more details on why you can trust them with your data.

We’ll be taking a look at some of the worst items that made the creepy list this year, along with our favorite picks that are safe to gift to your friends and family.

Creepy devices that don’t care about your privacy

  • Nvidia Shield TV: The famed graphics-card makers at Nvidia designed this Android TV streaming box. This device may share information with online services like Netflix or Hulu if you’re opted-in, and Nvidia never responded to Mozilla’s requests for more privacy details.
  • Dyson Pure Cool: A premium air purifier that doubles as a fan. Like Nvidia, Dyson never responded to Mozilla’s request for a more in-depth privacy outline. It also admits to sharing user data with social networks and ad affiliates.
  • Hamilton Beach Smart Coffee Maker: This smart coffee maker does not include instructions on deleting user data from the device and lacks a detailed privacy policy. It works with Alexa, but it’s unknown whether the device collects or shares data with Amazon.
  • Huawei Smart Watch ES: Huawei’s gadgets are known to collect user data, and many devices have since been banned in the U.S. and Europe. Mozilla could not find an updated privacy policy from later than 2018, and the support email address appears to be broken.
  • Schlage Encode Smart Deadbolt: The makers of this Alexa-compatible deadbolt may disclose personal information from your devices with third parties for marketing purposes.
  • Greater Goods Wi-Fi smart body scale: Despite taking personal measurements like weight and BMI, Greater Goods did not provide Mozilla with detailed privacy information. The scale connects with Fitbit and Google Fit, which may share your data depending on your settings.
  • Roku Streambar and Soundbar: Roku’s streaming gadget/speaker hybrid tracks your activity and shares the data with advertisers. Your data may also be used for targeted advertisements and marketing.
  • Facebook Portal: The Facebook Portal device includes a camera and microphone, and Facebook says the company may review audio snippets to improve its systems. Mozilla also warns of Facebook’s previous issues with privacy violations.
  • Moleskine smart writer set: This smartpen and journal can help you digitize your handwritten notes. Unfortunately, Moleskine’s privacy policy only covers its website and not the device or app that uploads your notes. There appears to be no way to delete your data.
  • Oculus Quest 2: Facebook owns the Oculus device and requires all users to make a Facebook account before playing any games. Facebook is well known for its privacy issues, which may extend from the website to your virtual reality device (that includes cameras and mics).

Tap or click here to see the Facebook privacy settings you need to change.

Gifts that give you your space

All of the following items meet Mozilla’s minimum privacy standards and do a good job of protecting your user data. While some data collection may occur, most of these devices will not share the data with third parties.

Nintendo Switch is an affordable game console that protects kids’ privacy

Nintendo Switch has topped Mozilla’s privacy list since 2017, and the new Switch Lite consoles are no exception. The device features strong parental controls to help parents restrict the data the console can access, and data collection will depend on game developers. Nintendo does not share data with any third parties.

Microsoft’s Surface Headphones deliver great audio and intelligent controls

Microsoft does not sell or share the data it collects through these smart headphones with voice controls and 13 different noise cancellation levels. It may use the data it collects to market its own products to you, but not third parties or affiliates.

Garmin Venu smartwatch keeps your health data private

Out of all the fitness trackers identified by Mozilla, Garmin devices seemed to do the best job protecting private data. It doesn’t share or sell the data it collects, and all health data is encrypted and de-identified so nobody can tell it belongs to you.

Eufy smart scale does a better job at protecting your privacy

Unlike the Greater Goods scale above, the Eufy smart scale keeps your information like weight and BMI away from third-party affiliates. However, if you use the scale with Google Fit or Apple Health, you may need to adjust your privacy settings.

This 4K drone from Parrot won’t share your data

The Parrot Anafi drone can film your adventures in 4K HDR video and features automatic image stabilization with 25 minutes of flight time. It meets Mozilla’s minimum security standards and protects your personal data.

You can use this smart speaker in more private ways

Sonos One smart speaker is humidity resistant and delivers high-definition sound that’s sure to impress the audio snobs in your family. The speaker does a good job of keeping your personal data secure, but it also includes Alexa and Google Assistant as optional features. If you want to use your speaker more discreetly, you don’t have to set either assistant up.

Want even more gift ideas? Tap or click here to see our list of the best tech gifts for under $100

We may receive a commission when you buy through our links, but our reporting and recommendations are always independent and objective.

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