IoT Devices Bring More Privacy Worries In Wake of Apple’s HomePod Release

Apple’s answer to the Amazon Echo and Google Home released on February 9th. According to The Verge, Apple sold out of its HomePod preorders the day before public launch. Another option for consumers gives more control over which company has access to their data. But how are consumers reacting to the growing number of smart IoT devices?

Smart Home Devices & Privacy

Almost two-thirds of American consumers said that the explosive growth of Internet-connected products makes them more concerned about their privacy and security.”

Executive Director of the Security Innovation Center, Josh Zecher, said:

“This interconnectivity will enable opportunities to solve society’s most vexing problems. However, it also brings challenges that can only be overcome by ensuring that privacy and security are the foundational elements of all technology-related policies.”

How is HomePod Different Than Other Smart Speakers?

Apple’s foray into smart speakers has a slightly different feel, though. Because Google and Amazon are more focused on acquiring data to strengthen their devices, their devices help solidify their business model. Because Apple is a hardware company, they give more power to the device and allow it to use artificial intelligence within itself to become smarter.

Back in June, when the product was announced, ZDNet said “Apple’s logic is that, for the most part, it doesn’t want your data.”

Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering added, “many of the advanced deep learning and artificial intelligence analysis — such as finding your location, facial recognition in photos, and setting calendar reminders — is done on the device, shutting Apple out of the loop — preventing anyone from asking Apple for data it doesn’t have.”

More Devices Mean More Privacy and Security Concerns

30 percent of American consumers own six or more products that connect to the Internet daily. Keeping data private on a single device is a chore for the average internet user. Using six devices without making your information vulnerable is quite a task.

Consumer IoT devices are difficult to secure because their voice interfaces don’t have the level of control offered by desktop computers and smartphones. Another point to consider is that the current generation of connected devices is just the beginning. Smart devices will make there way into more aspects of consumers’ everyday lives.

New technologies like machine learning can help make voice more secure, though. Pindrop’s Deep Voice product uses biometric data to recognize and verify caller identities to avoid fraud. This same technology can be applied to smart home devices with voice interfaces. It’s a clear challenge to protect devices controlled by voice. Anyone with a voice, theoretically, can access the information stored on your smart speaker.

smart home privacy

The House That Spied on Me in Gizmodo talks about Kashmir Hill‘s experience converting much of her home to a “smart” home. Her main goal was to find out if her connected home would betray her.

Hill experimented by giving one of her colleagues access to the data gathered by her connected devices. After a week living in her freshly smartened home, she found the smart devices to be annoying. The devices integration into the home and with the other devices proved to be clunky. Hill notes having to download 14 different apps to control everything, each app with a separate account and terms of service.

The purpose of smart devices is to increase efficiency and give us more time to be productive doing other things. However, because the devices failed to work smoothly together, Hill found that many simple tasks were made more difficult after adding “smart” features.

Take Aways

  • Many of the smart devices were sending data even when the “smart” features weren’t being used.
  • Hill and her husband gathered that if smart homes become the norm, then any anxiety you feel about being tracked online will move into your living room — which was previously a safe space.
  • For most devices, your data is sent back to the companies that makes them in encrypted form. While this is good for privacy, it also means that even tech savvy users can’t see what information the device is sharing.
  • After the experiment, Kashmir Hill was much less concerned with the privacy of the smart devices, and more focused on the annoying and poor user experience.

How to Make a Smart Home More Secure

IoT devices provide utility for users, but could also give unwanted access to your home. If you have smart locks on your home, a mishap, like losing your phone, could give someone unwanted access to your home. Norton gives the following tips for securing your smart home:

Secure Your Network: IoT devices rely on the internet to be used, usually Wi-Fi. Your information is transmitted over your Wi-Fi network, so if anyone has access to your network, anyone can access your information.

Know Your Devices: Before using a device, Norton suggests taking a look at which information your device uses and who it shares the information with. This includes checking your settings and changing the privacy and security settings to suit your needs and comfort level.

Install Security Software: By installing security software on as many devices as possible, you eliminate weak points in your network. This prevents opportunities to infect your other devices if a smart home device is compromised.

Secure Your Phone: According to Norton Cybersecurity Insights Report, 33% of smartphone users do not use password locks on their phones. Because so many IoT devices are controlled by mobile apps, this could give someone access to your home if you lose your phone.

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