The UK consumer review magazine Which? (equivalent to America's Consumer Reports) has published a special investigation into the ways that Internet of Things smart devices are spying on Britons at farcical levels, with the recommendation that people avoid smart devices where possible, to feed false data to smart devices you do own, and to turn off data-collection settings in devices' confusing, deeply hidden control panels.
The findings are pretty bonkers: HP Envy 5020 Printer broadcasts the name of every file you print as well as sending it to HP; Philips Sonicare Bluetooth electric toothbrush tracks your location; all 200,000 ieGeek 1080p IP Camera's usernames and passwords are exposed on a badly secured website; and an unnamed smart TV contacted 700 different IP addresses during 15 minutes' use.
The investigators say that they were limited in how deeply they could investigate their test devices because of "legal restrictions" (presumably license agreements and the anti-circumvention rules under Article 6 of the EUCD).
Due to legal restrictions, we’re limited as to how far we can investigate where data is actually going, or what’s being done with the information. Just like you, we’re reliant on companies being transparent over what they’re doing with your data now, or what they may do in the future.
Alex Neill, Which? managing director of home products and services, said: ‘Smart home gadgets and devices can bring huge benefits to our daily lives, but our investigation shows they can collect vast amounts of data about us.
‘Companies should be clear about how they are collecting and using data and ensure consumers feel in control about what they are sharing – without having to trawl through impenetrable terms and conditions.’
Which? has been carrying out a wide-ranging policy study and in-depth face-to-face research with people across the country to understand how they feel about data collection and use. This report will be published on 5 June 2018.
Which? investigation reveals ‘staggering’ level of smart home surveillance [Andrew Laughlin/Which?]