If you’ve recently purchased a shiny new smart home device, you might want to listen up. According to a study by consumer advocacy group Which?, these devices seem to be gathering more personal data than necessary for their operation. Yes, that means your smart TV might be snooping on your viewing habits and your high-tech washing machine might want to know your birth date. Rocio Concha, the director of policy and advocacy at Which?, argues that it’s excessive for consumers to ‘pay’ with their personal data after already spending hefty amounts on the products.
The investigation delved into popular brands’ data collection practices involving their smart devices. Notably, every brand required exact location data as well as an approximate one, regardless of its relevance to the product’s functionality. Particularly concerning were the smart cameras and doorbells, where Ezviz devices, sold by prominent retailers like Argos, had the most tracking firms active, including TikTok’s business marketing unit, Pangle, Huawei, Google, and Meta.
While Amazon maintains that it never sells customers’ personal data and works tirelessly to keep it secure, Google clarifies that it complies with applicable privacy laws and provides transparency regarding data collection. In another revelation, Which? discovered that Bose smart speakers share user data with Meta, Facebook’s parent company. The companies often leave consumers in the dark about what happens next with their data by claiming ‘legitimate interests’, making it crucial for consumers to thoroughly understand the fine print before clicking accept.
Under GDPR, transparency about data collection and processing is obligatory, and the collected data must be relevant and limited to what is necessary for processing. However, Which? contends that the explanations for data collection are often too vague for consumers to grasp. So next time you’re setting up your new smart device, remember, understanding the terms and conditions could save your personal data from landing in the wrong hands.