Editor’s Note: Conducted by the Surfshark Research Center, the “Smart Home Privacy Checker” study provides critical insights into how data collection practices by leading smart home apps like Amazon Alexa and Google Home can compromise user privacy. This study is essential for cybersecurity, information governance, and eDiscovery professionals because as smart home technology becomes more pervasive, understanding the privacy implications of data-hungry apps is crucial. The findings from the study highlight the need for robust data protection measures and informed consumer choices to safeguard personal information in an increasingly connected world.


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Industry News – Cybersecurity Beat

Privacy Risks in Smart Home Apps: A Closer Look at Data Collection

ComplexDiscovery Staff

As the smart home market continues to grow, with Statista projecting an increase of 424.5 million users worldwide by 2028, bringing the total to 785.16 million, cybersecurity, information governance, and eDiscovery professionals must confront the privacy risks associated with these increasingly popular devices. The recent “Smart Home Privacy Checker” study by the Surfshark Research Center has shed light on the alarming extent of data collection by smart home apps, particularly those linked to industry giants like Amazon and Google.

The study, which analyzed 290 apps connected to over 400 IoT smart home devices, found that approximately one in ten apps collects user data for tracking purposes. Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home emerged as the most data-hungry, gathering 28 and 22 out of 32 possible data points, respectively. This extensive data collection includes sensitive information such as precise location, contact details, health-related data, photos, videos, and audio recordings, all linked to individual user profiles.

Goda Sukackaite, a privacy advisor at Surfshark, emphasizes the importance of consumer awareness and proactive privacy management, sharing that individuals should actively seek and use privacy settings, manage app permissions, and understand the data security policies of their smart home devices.

For professionals tasked with safeguarding digital assets and ensuring compliance with privacy regulations, the implications of this data collection are significant. The vast amount of personal information amassed by smart home apps can serve as a treasure trove for targeted advertising, unauthorized data use, and even malicious activities if the data is compromised. The study reveals that 12 of the 290 apps analyzed have not updated their data collection practices in over a year, raising concerns about transparency and compliance with privacy laws.

Darius Belejevas, a cybersecurity and privacy expert at Incogni, underscores the potential risks of data sharing with third parties, warning that user data, shared with data brokers or third parties, can lead to targeted advertising and increased risks of security breaches.

Cybersecurity experts must grapple with the potential consequences of data breaches involving smart home devices. As these devices become increasingly integrated into our daily lives, the impact of a security incident could extend far beyond the digital realm, potentially compromising physical safety and privacy. Developing robust security measures and educating consumers about the importance of privacy settings and app permissions is crucial in mitigating these risks.

Information governance professionals face the challenge of ensuring that the data collected by smart home apps is properly managed, stored, and protected. With the rapid proliferation of these devices, organizations must adapt their information governance frameworks to encompass the unique challenges posed by IoT data. This includes implementing strict data retention policies, conducting regular audits, and ensuring compliance with applicable privacy laws and regulations.

For eDiscovery professionals, the widespread adoption of smart home devices presents both opportunities and challenges. On one hand, the wealth of data generated by these devices could provide valuable evidence in legal proceedings. However, the sheer volume and variety of data, coupled with the complexities of collecting and preserving it, can strain existing eDiscovery processes. Developing new strategies and tools to effectively manage and analyze IoT data will be essential in the coming years.

As the smart home market continues to expand, it is imperative that cybersecurity, information governance, and eDiscovery professionals remain vigilant in addressing the privacy risks associated with these devices. By proactively implementing robust security measures, adapting information governance frameworks, and developing innovative eDiscovery solutions, these professionals can help strike a balance between the convenience offered by smart home technology and the protection of personal privacy. Only by confronting these challenges head-on can we ensure that the benefits of a connected home do not come at the cost of our digital well-being.

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