The connected home is fast becoming commonplace. Smart appliances like light bulbs, virtual assistant speakers, thermostats, cameras, and door locks make life more convenient. We like the perks and benefits of a smart home -- remotely controlling our homes' temperatures, seeing who comes and goes to our front doors, and turning on lights before we get home.
But is that futuristic Jetson-like vibe compromising our cybersecurity? While these connected devices add layers of security, they also open us to vulnerability. Every device that is connected to the internet is not only vulnerable to breaches, but it's also diminishing your privacy Think about it: Every time you flip a switch, that's a piece of data that your smart device, and Alexa, Siri or Google collects. In fact, Google and Amazon are asking manufacturers of smart devices to share your information with them, so they can learn about your lifestyles.
Read on and learn why this new requirement from these tech giants could change everything.
'Hey you smart bulb, report to base'
According to a new Bloomberg report, Amazon and Google, the undisputed leaders of smart home integration, are asking smart home gadget makers like Logitech and Hunter Fan Co. to send continuous reports from their customers' connected appliances.
In the past, Amazon and Google only record data at that exact moment when someone issues a voice command to trigger an event to a smart appliance -- turning a light on or off or locking the door, for instance.
Now, these tech giants reportedly want to have non-stop reports from these gadgets and know at any given time -- for example, whether a light bulb is on or off, whether a smart lock's front bolt is engaged or what channel a smart TV is set to.
This information may seem harmless, but it can potentially allow these companies to peer into your home routines. There are legitimate concerns that, combined with the individual data collected through our computers and smartphones, not only can they stitch together our personal daily habits, they can map out our entire household and monitor our families' patterns 24/7.
Listen to this: Thousands of Android apps are tracking you, and there's not much you can do about it. Amazon and Google want to collect even more of your data through their smart speakers. All that and more tech news from the digital world of Kim Komando.
Some manufacturers say 'no' to selling user data
According to an Amazon spokesperson via Bloomberg, the company doesn't sell its user data nor does it use these status reports for advertising. These companies may suggest that they want this constant stream of status updates to improve their services and speed up response times, making it easier for smart home users, but this means these services can map out your entire family's daily routines 24/7.
Your smart light bulbs can potentially know every little detail of your home habits -- what time you wake up, what time your children go to bed, what time you turn on the dinner table lights, what time you arrive from work, etc.
There's been push back from some companies about this constant stream of update reports, however. For its part, Logitech tried to compromise with Amazon and Google by sending out broad, aggregated data from their devices' activities instead of detailed information.
On the other hand, other companies support non-stop status reporting because it improves the reliability of their smart devices. These companies say Amazon and Google are not requiring this data for the sake of advertising; rather, it is solely for the improvement of their products.
What do smart device companies do with your data?
The bottom line is this -- with all the data that can potentially be collected with these constant streams of information, there is the potential for abuse.
As Kim mentioned on the first hour of the latest The Kim Komando Show episode, "Privacy becomes harder and harder as technology becomes smarter and smarter," especially with the emergence of internet-of-things devices like smart speakers, always-on virtual assistants and always-connected smart appliances.
Even if they do say that they're not using this data for marketing and advertising purposes now, they can always flip a switch and start doing so. All that data is saved within their servers, right?
Maybe instead of enabling these non-stop status updates by default, these companies should offer their customers clear ways to opt out of them and maybe view and delete the data that's been collected so far.
How to stop your smart TV from spying on you
Don't look now, but you won't believe how your smart TV is not just gobbling up your viewing data, but it may also be gathering information about your home. Can you minimize your smart TV's snooping activities? Our advice: Turn off its tracking features. I'll tell you how.