Our Privacy Is Losing Out To Internet-Connected Household Devices

by David Lazarus, Los Angeles Times

smart home

Bretislav Valek / Wikimedia

It’s called the Internet of Things and, judging by all the connected gadgets and appliances unveiled at last week’s Consumer Electronics Show, it’s about to strip you of what little privacy you have left.

Taken piecemeal, there’s much to recommend about the idea of controlling household devices via voice control or smartphone apps. It’s cool having your heater or clothes dryer monitor how much power you’re using, or having your fridge alert you that you’re low on milk.

Put it all together, though, and you have a steady stream of data about your personal behavior that can be combined with other information to provide marketers, insurers and others with extremely intimate portraits of the life you lead when you think no one’s watching.

“There’s definitely a creepiness factor,” said Gilad Rosner, founder of the Internet of Things Privacy Forum, a London think tank. “Things that didn’t Internet before are now Internetting.”

He gave the example of someone having a so-called smart scale in their bathroom. On the plus side, it could transmit data to a smartphone app that enables you to track your weight over various lengths of time and show which foods are having the biggest impact.

“But you might not know where else the information is going,” Rosner told me. “An insurer would want to know if you’re gaining a lot of weight. So would an employer.”

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