In a world where we’re all paranoid about devices spying on us (and rightfully so), perhaps no other devices receive more scrutiny than smarthome products. But is that scrutiny warranted?
Don’t get me wrong; there are plenty of different products out there that are spying on you, like smart televisions and browser extensions, but what about things like smart speakers, Wi-Fi cams, and other smarthome devices? Let’s talk about it.
Smart Devices Collect Data, but It’s Not as Scary as You Think
Most smarthome devices need to be connected to the internet to function properly. This lets you control devices remotely from your phone or use voice commands to turn things on and off. Whenever you send a command to your devices, that data gets sent to the company that made that particular device.
So if I’m away from home and I want to turn on my smart lights from my phone, I open up the Hue app and turn on the lights. That data gets sent to Philips to get processed, and some server goes “Oh hey, we’ve received a command from Craig’s phone to turn on the lights, so we’re going to send that command to Craig’s Philips Hue Bridge hub.” That’s an incredibly-simplified version of it, but you get the point.
The same goes for your smart speaker. Whenever you activate Alexa, Siri, or Google Assistant, your voice command gets sent to their servers for processing, and what comes back is the result of your voice command. These companies also store all of the voice commands you’ve ever said, but you can easily erase the history if you’d like.
Wi-Fi cameras do the same—video recordings are stored in the cloud. So your Nest Cam recordings are stored on Nest servers. Thankfully, they’re encrypted, so only you can view the video recordings.
Sure, none of this is necessarily sensitive information like your social security number or anything like that, but it does feel a bit weird that Philips technically knows when I turn my lights on and off in my house, and Amazon knows that I frequently ask about the weather in the mornings.
What About Hacking?
Being spied on by the companies themselves is one thing, but users are also afraid of being spied on by hackers who break into their smarthome devices.
RELATED: Are My Smarthome Devices Secure?
There’s a legitimate fear around this for sure, and theoretically, it’s possible. However, if you make sure that all of your devices are locked down with a password, as well as two-factor authentication (if available), you make it difficult for something bad to happen.
Furthermore, it’s best to stick with reputable brands when buying smarthome products, rather cheap knock-off Chinese brands. The bigger, popular companies have a reputation to uphold, so it’s always in their best interest to create a secure interface for their devices, whereas a cheap Chinese brand that no one has ever heard of doesn’t need to care.