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Don't give away the keys to your castle: Common smart device data privacy concerns

Security and data privacy concerns are some of the most significant issues in today's interconnected world. From the cellphone in your hand to the video doorbell at your home, data is continuously being collected, stored, analyzed, and processed by large companies. This array of interconnected devices, called The Internet of Things (IoT), isn't always safe. It can be vulnerable to security hacks and data breaches, granting unwanted access to the personal and intimate details of our lives.

With such a broad array of IoT devices available and connected, consumers have become more vocal about data privacy concerns. From the increased prevalence of sophisticated online crimes to the ever-constant news of data breaches and hacks, it has become apparent that online data isn't always secure.


Data privacy concerns: You are not alone 

If you are holding back from purchasing that next smart device because you feel as if your privacy is in jeopardy - you are not alone. Before you bring any smart devices into your home, you need to ensure that your smart devices and privacy concerns are met, and your personal information and data will be safe and secure. While using smart devices is a great way to streamline and improve your life, you don't want to give away the keys to your castle. Before you commit to purchasing the newest technology, review these five common data privacy issues and concerns that many users have with smart devices.

Who is listening?

By default, most smart home devices have their "listening function" turned on  because these devices need to be primed and ready to hear the "trigger words" to begin their functions. While the standard setting is for the audio to be turned on, the fear is that intelligent devices are listening in and recording conversations, when trigger words are not spoken. 

According to PCmag.com, 68% of users believe their smart home devices are listening to them without the prompt trigger word. Unfortunately, more private conversations than you believe are being listened in on. Large companies hire teams of people who listen to and analyze conversations that were recorded using smart devices. While these companies insist that the conversations that are analyzed are only completed to help improve operating systems and speech recognition, the fear is there. The fear that whatever you say around your smart home or smart device is monitored, stored, and vulnerable to other people listening in.

Has this smart device thoroughly been tested?

While many companies spend years testing technology, you will find some manufacturers focus on building and rolling out their apps and products extremely fast. The hope of these manufacturers is that their product will be a first entrant into the market and will build a quick and strong following. However, some of these products could be a cause of significant security breaches and lack essential data management and security. Downloading third-party apps or introducing new programs into your devices could set yourself open to attack. 

Who is watching? 

With IoT, there's also the issue of surveillance. If every product becomes connected together, there is the potential for an unbridled observation of users. The camera on your phone, laptop, refrigerator, or security system can all be interconnected digitally, and if any piece in that string of devices is compromised, your life can be exposed. 

With all of these cameras accessible from the Internet, the question about who is watching comes to the forefront. For example, the video doorbell company Ring has been in hot water lately, as Congress fears that Ring and local authorities are using video data to create local surveillance networks and tapping into 911 emergency feeds using user data. While the Ring technology is a great visual monitoring system to protect your home and streets, there have been data privacy concerns and questions surrounding the data and images that could potentially be obtained by a third party. 

When your data is safe within your home or the first party (in this case, Ring), you have the security that it is private. If companies were to share your video or images to other parties (in this case, police departments), you can't verify how that data was accessed, who has access to it, who is now watching, and the control over your data security is unknown. 

How will my data be used?

When using an IoT device, speaking or inputting a command is just a small part of their operating system and use. These devices usually perform a set of functions that begin with action and end with the data to analyze. However, where does that data go, and what is going to happen with it? Most big companies say that audio data is saved and used to improve speech recognition across products, or your personal preferences are applied to make your shopping experience better. 

However, there have been many instances when data breaches have been found to be providing personal data and preferences to third party users. According to a more recent IoT study, the researcher discovered that 72 of the 81 IoT devices analyzed shared data with third parties utterly unrelated to the original manufacturer. These intelligent devices shared data such as IP address, user  habits, and location data.

Is my home secure?

One of the scariest threats that a hack of your IoT can possess is the potential for a home invasion. Today, IoT devices have given rise to home automation, and your home's temperature, locks, security, and lights are all controlled digitally. Security breaches from these smart devices could be used to create a profile of each user that is based on their usage habits. Some of these habits and data can include personally identifiable information such as social media data, geographical data, or their unique device information. When all of these pieces are combined together, the data can be used to identify a particular user, and your home is now compromised. 

How to keep your data secure 

The use of any IoT makes it clear that you should scrutinize every smart device that you bring into your life. With every new piece of technology, thoroughly read through the terms of service, and identify how each one is  going to use and store your data. If you are still struggling with your IoT even after reading through a privacy policy or the help section, think about removing that device from your life. If that is still not an option, below are a few steps you can take if you still have any smart home device privacy concerns. 

Update your firewall

Many popular IoT devices have no authentication or encryption installed. Using any small number of tools, hackers can quickly identify, find, and connect with your intelligent devices. To prevent these types of hackers, update or purchase a hardware or software firewall that can not be bypassed or exploited. These firewalls will help alleviate security concerns and protect your personal data.   

Register and update your devices

While it seems like registration would be giving away your privacy, it is often protecting it. If a company of one of your registered devices identifies any bugs within its programming or has any security concerns, it will send out updates to registered users to fix the lapse. Maintaining current registration and updating your devices regularly will keep your systems up to date and secure. 

Choose a strong password

Most devices come preinstalled with a simple, default password. The purpose of the default password is to make setup simple - not to offer up a secure password for you to use and remember. It is crucial to change the default password, and it should be changed to something that is strong and secure. Using non-personal passwords with multiple numbers, letters, and symbols are the most secure. If creating and remembering passwords seems daunting, there are also password manager programs that can help you build strong and secure passwords without having to think of complex password algorithms on your own. 

Receive peace of mind with Rosy 

You should never have to trade your privacy for convenience. If IoT and smart devices are your new way of life, make sure you protect your personal data and take extra measures to do so. You can also make a conscious effort to use a smart device that has security safeguards built into the core of its operating system, like Rosy. Rosy is a digital assistant tool that helps families connect, preserve memories, and organize digital materials all within a platform that puts user security and privacy first. 

Unlike other devices on the market, Rosy was built to help users explore smart technology, but in a way that is both private and secure. Rosy is encrypted with unique keys specific to the consumer, uses the latest security tools and software, and runs constant security audits on the program. While there are many actions you can take with IoT to make sure your devices are safe and secure, nothing will beat the peace of mind that comes with a smart device like Rosy that puts privacy and security at the forefront. 

If you'd like to learn more about how Rosy can help you during your journey to go paperless, be sure to join our waitlist for the Rosy app launching later this year.