Spying Eyes of Smart Devices

Spying Eyes of Smart Devices

During the holiday season, many families added a smart TV or a digital assistant to their household inventory of electronics. These smart devices allow you to use voice commands to place a call or to start streaming an episode of your favorite Netflix show without having to get off the sofa. However, there may be a downside to the convenience provided by smart devices. If a smart device is always listening for commands and is connected to the internet, could it pose a privacy risk? Here are some measures you can take to reduce the data you may be sharing:  

Secure your smart TV and minimize data collection/sharing

Smart TVs are connected to the internet but are not as well protected as computers, making them vulnerable to hacking. Smart TVs may also collect data on what you watch through a process called Advanced Content Recognition (ACR). ACR data, along with info that can identify you, such as your device ID and your location, is sent to the manufacturer and the manufacturer’s business partners. You cannot review or delete this data and it may be used for targeted advertising.

Steps to maximize privacy and prevent your smart TV from being hacked:

  • Identify which data collection, voice recognition and targeted advertising features come with your smart TV. To find them, set up an internet search that includes your TV’s model number along with terms like ‘privacy,’ ‘internet’ and ‘data.’
  • When setting up a new smart TV, read all the screens carefully before clicking ‘I agree.’ Opt-out of any data collection agreements or targeted advertising agreements you do not wish to participate in.
  • If your smart TV is already set up, navigate to the privacy settings menu to opt-out of smart features you do not want active. For help navigating to your TV’s privacy settings, perform an internet search that contains your TV’s model number and phrases like ‘turn off ACR’ and ‘turn off targeted advertising.’
  • If your TV has a camera, cover it when you are not using it.
  • Change any passwords from the default password. Create a secondary Wi-Fi network for your smart devices that is separate from the network your computer is on. Also, install any updates for your smart TV released by the manufacturer.
  • These steps can greatly reduce your security risk and the data being collected, but the only way to reduce your exposure down to zero is to completely disconnect your TV from the internet.

Take control of data collected by smart speakers

Your conversations with digital assistants like Alexa are stored in the service provider’s cloud server. However, there are some steps you can take to manage saved conversations.

Steps to maximize privacy and prevent your smart speakers from being hacked:

  • Delete messages from your Google Assistant by going to the Google Assistant Activity dashboard on your Google account.
  • Delete conversations with Alexa by going into your Alexa app and going to ‘Alexa Privacy’ then clicking ‘Review Voice
  • History.’  While you are in the ‘Alexa Privacy’ menu, click on ‘Manage How Your Data Improves Alexa’ and disable the ‘Help Develop New Features’ option and the ‘Use Messages to Improve Transcriptions’ option.
  • Use the ‘Mute’ feature on your smart speaker when you do not want to take a chance that it will mistake something you say for its wake word and start recording your conversation.
  • Turn on the option that enables the smart speaker to emit an audible signal when it hears its wake word.
  • This signal alerts you that the smart speaker is recording what is being said in the room.