Some ‘smart home’ device companies are collecting more user data than necessary and potentially sharing it with social media companies, according to consumer company Which. The Google thermostat requests users’ location and contacts, the LG washing machine asks for date of birth, and the Sony TV tracks viewing habits, among other devices.
Tech Correspondent Jess Kelly explains that companies are interested in obtaining user data but people often overlook the lengthy terms and conditions that come with these devices, leading to uninformed decisions. While the idea of certain features, such as barcode scanning on smart fridges to keep track of expiry dates, seems appealing, Jess questions the need for devices to require personal information like date of birth, favorite color, and star sign.
Furthermore, Jess observes that many smart devices lack an “opt out option” when it comes to collecting personal data such as birthday, address, and gender. This lack of choice and transparency is concerning, especially in the event of data breaches.
Having devices that can track energy usage and consumption is beneficial, but users should consider whether their washing machine needs to know their gender. Companies should only require essential information, such as email addresses for identity verification.
To protect personal data, Jess suggests creating a separate email address solely for receiving digital receipts. If a company’s request for personal information seems unnecessary, users should refrain from providing it.
In conclusion, while smart home devices offer convenience and functionality, users should be cautious about the amount and type of personal data they share with these companies.