Protecting Your Privacy with the Internet of Things

What do thermostats, activity trackers, light bulbs, light switches, refrigerators, coffee makers, baby monitors, televisions, door locks, security camera and many other devices have in common? They have a version that can connect to the Internet and can be controlled through an app. The term Internet of Things (IoT) describes the capability of everyday devices to connect to other devices and to people through the Internet. While this brings convenience, it also brings concerns about protecting your personal information.

Many devices send some or all of the information they collect to company servers where it is stored. Once it's there, you don't have any control over how it is used. In addition, there have been numerous reports about the lack of security of many of these devices. Some devices have leaked names, email addresses and other personal information over unsecured connections. Others have collected and shared more information than specified or needed.

You can protect your privacy by limiting access to your information. Here are steps you should take.

Research before buying. Decide what features you need and what information you are willing to share. Then look for the product that fits your needs.

Secure your Wi-Fi router. Take advantage of all the security features provided by the router including protecting it with a password. Require a password for every device to connect to it. If you have a smart phone hub, it is similar to a router, so make sure that it is secure too.

Read the privacy policy. Even though it can be long and full of legalese, it may be the only place that describes the information that the device collects and what it does with it.

Check the security settings. You want to be able to control features and information collection that could impact your privacy. Recheck after updates are made.

Install updates. Keeping your device up to date, especially with security updates, can help keep your personal information secure.

Does the device need to connect? Even though a device may have the capability of connecting to the Internet, it doesn’t have to connect. If you don't plan to use its Internet connectivity, then don't set it up or disable it.

While these steps won't stop all collection and sharing of your information, they will help you limit it.


For more information

From Consumer Reports:

Internet of Things (IoT) from the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC)

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