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Study: Tech Giants Dominate Data Collection in Smart Homes

A recent study by VPN provider Surfshark has unveiled significant privacy concerns regarding smart home devices, revealing that major tech companies such as Amazon and Google are leading in extensive data collection practices.

The study scrutinized common smart home apps and uncovering that one in ten of these applications track users in multiple ways, potentially compromising user privacy.

Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Home apps top the list of data collectors, with Alexa gathering 28 data points and Google Home 22. This includes information such as device identifiers, user location, contact information, and browsing history.

For Alexa, Amazon’s smart home control platform, it collects more than three times the average smart home device. All of the collected data is linked, and each piece of collected data is associated with a user profile. Data includes precise location, contact information (email, phone number), and health data. 

Google’s notable collected data points include the user’s address, precise location, photos or videos, audio data, browsing, and search history.

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Surprisingly, the Keurig coffee machine app ranks third in data collection. While gathering less than the big two tech giants, the app gathers more than double the average for popular smart devices. The Keurig app links all gathered data to individual users, using eight data points to track the user across third-party networks.

Surfshark also details how security cameras and their apps, while marketed as helping to keep users safe and secure, are among the top collectors of user data. On average, these apps gather 12 data points, which is 50% more than the average for other smart home devices. In addition, those devices link seven out of 12 of those points to the user’s identity.

The research called out home security camera manufacturers Deep Sentinel and Lorex specifically, each of which collect 18 data points.

Surfshark also found that many apps fail to update their data collection practices regularly. This stagnation can lead to outdated security protocols and increased vulnerability to hacking and data theft.

Surfshark recommends that users take proactive steps to protect their data. This includes regularly reviewing and adjusting app permissions, disabling unnecessary microphones and cameras, regularly updating apps, and more.

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