In this article we briefly review the implications of the ‘smart home’ devices by Google, Facebook and Amazon.
Wearing my Alex Jones-esque tinfoil hat for a moment, the very wording of ‘ok Google’, for example, is in itself subserviant. But I’m sure that is just bad branding. Either way you slice it, we are all using products with the power to know everything you’ve ever searched (and deleted), has an ‘advertising profile’ on you and is easily able to track where you are, where you have been, and how long you were there; and that is just the tip of an the iceberg.
But, this isn’t anything you were’nt aware of already, these tools are so useful, and mostly free, that we accept our privacy being infringed, after all most of us aren’t planning a terrorist attack, but, as the port Tony Hoagland put it so well when talking about big corporations: ”We just want to be manipulated with a little fucking consideration”.
Here, we review whether or not your home is spying on you, and how to prevent hackers from taking advantage of your smart home.
Data collection is big business, and ultimately the devices used to make our home ‘smarter’ main use is to use our data for profit. In other words, Google Home, Alexa, and Siri may seem like your home companions but the truth is, they are programmed to record and collect all of your conversations and user data. Or, maybe they will get a ‘bug’ and accidently recorded everything 24/7 or send an entire conversation to one of your friends…
This is pretty unethical, because our personal data is our lives. Companies like Facebook and Google faced some backlash towards this, since people were not so pleased with the whole targeted ads system, however their product is so useful we often overlook these things.
Though companies claim that this data is only used for enhancing their products to our comfort, letting these corporations have intricate details of our personal lives is kinda creepy.
Many people around the world are avoiding smart home appliances for this particular reason, I have unplugged mine – after I got bored asking Alexa ‘what is 100 in welsh?’, seriously ask if you are around one.
Even if you have already spent a lot of money and have purchased any of these commodities, or got one as a gift, there is still a way to protect your privacy.
These big corporations have installed settings that can help you prevent this from happening, but how “safe” are we really, when we already know that they were the first ones to actually collect our data without our knowledge?
Tips to Secure Your Privacy
There are plenty of ways in which you can prevent devices from recording your data and conversations, the first being, simply go to the settings and disable your microphone on every one of them, or if the settings has an option to stop collecting your data, then go for that. All though if you have Google Home Hub, even this might not work: ”Recording only happens when you use audio activation commands […] and includes a few seconds before to catch your request,” the device’s privacy text explains, but you’re advised to “let friends and family know that their interactions will be stored in your Google Account unless they link their account”.
You can never really be sure if the appliance still records you or not, so here are a few tips to help you secure your conversations and data:
#1 Switch Off The Microphone
Many devices today, including phones, TVs, and Smart Refrigerators come with an enabled microphone. Almost all of these give you an option to switch them off manually. But these settings can be daunting to find. So, when you do get a smart appliance or device for your home, make sure you know how to turn off the mic.
#2 Use the “Smart” Feature When Required
All these smart devices have voice control and this is actually the best feature of these devices, but sadly this is one of the most dangerous things as well. The mics in these devices records you non-stop.
Since most of these appliances perform their fundamental function without the internet, take advantage of that. You do not need the smart feature all the time. Switch off your Wi-Fi for a while and live how people did a decade ago, it’s not that hard.
#3 Create a Guest Network
Almost all the smart devices at your home are connected to one network that is mainly your Wi-Fi, so if you happen to get hacked on any of these devices, your main network will be compromised as well. So, create a guest network that is not linked to your main network. A simple yet effective method to keep snoopers away.
To sum it up…
Ultimately, when it comes ot smart home devices, you are the product, not the devices. The tech world is rapidly changing and is it is hard to keep up with how the technology is really being used, when you have a billion dollar company who can seemingly get away with taking data anyway they want, it’s hard to stop it, unless of course you just don’t buy these smart home products.
We should not have to live in paranoia, rather enjoy the power of smart tech to spread awareness and evolve into an ideal society where there is no secretive spying on civilians. Hopefully the constant infringments from big tech into our private lives will lead to a gap in the market for home devices that work for us, rather than use working for them.