Consumer group Which? has sounded the alarm on smart home devices collecting excessive user data. Google thermostats, LG washing machines, and Sony TVs are just a few examples of devices asking for more information than necessary.
Unnecessary Data Collection
Google thermostats have been found to ask for users’ location and contacts during the setup process. LG washing machines go a step further, asking for your birth date.
Rocio Concha, Which?’s director of policy and advocacy, demands better guidelines. “Firms should not collect more data than they need to provide the service that’s on offer,” she said.
Sharing with Social Media
Data collected by these devices is often shared with companies like Meta, owner of Facebook and Instagram, and social media platform TikTok. UK laws mandate transparency around data collection and usage, but many users are not fully aware of these details.
Privacy policies can be daunting. For example, Google Nest’s policy documentation is over 20,000 words long, discouraging users from reading it thoroughly.
Rocio Concha suggests that the Information Commissioner’s Office should update its guidelines to improve consumer protection.
Smart cameras and doorbells from Ezviz are particularly data-hungry and share user data with multiple companies.
These devices pose an increased risk of data leakage, sharing information with Google, Meta, Huawei, and TikTok’s business marketing unit Pangle.
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The Role of Manufacturers
Cyber security and data protection concerns are barriers to consumer trust. Manufacturers are often unclear about the extent and purpose of data collection, causing mistrust among users.
One study found that 81% of respondents identified privacy, security, and hacking as their primary concerns.
Second-hand Market Challenges
Data security concerns don’t stop at first-hand users. Second-hand smart devices can store personal information, posing a risk for new users.
Manufacturers are required by GDPR to make sure the appliance can be reset to factory settings for new users.
Tips for Consumers
Manufacturers Must Do Better
Consumer groups argue that manufacturers should be transparent about data collection. Rocio Concha advises that there should be “transparency over data sharing and the ability to opt in or out at the consumer’s discretion.”
Data Ownership Ambiguity
Another concern is the ambiguity about who owns the machine-generated data. Consumers are worried about the invasion of their privacy, and manufacturers face the task of clarifying data usage policies.
Not All Data is Sensitive
Some stakeholders argue that data privacy may not be a huge concern if the data collected is not sensitive, such as information from a washing machine or dishwasher.
Consumers should stay alert to protect their personal information. Being well-informed allows you to make smarter decisions about data security. In the words of Rocio Concha, “Firms should not amass more data than necessary.”