Sunday, Jan 20, 2019 | Last Update : 03:40 AM IST
Gifting that smart gadget could be the worst gift you ever thought of.
Things are getting smarter. A few years ago, who could have ever imagined that even your humble vacuum cleaner could be controlled and automated from overseas using your smartphone. Well, with everything getting smarter and connected, our life may be getting easier, and more comfortable. However, with a smart lifestyle in your future home, are you ready to risk your privacy in bargain?
With the shopping season just gone by, and another one just around the corner, people around the world are opting for more tech-based gifts than simple chocolates and sweaters like they used to be in olden days. With our lives now revolving around our smartphone, gadgets around the house are also getting smarter, better. But with them having the abilities of giving control to the unknown, things can get worse than we think.
Take for example printers alone — a printer’s firmware can now be upscaled to be controlled from the internet and anyone can print from any location on the planet, with a basic requirement called the internet. However, if that printer’s firmware is not safe, it could be easily hacked into and your documents being printed could be accessed remotely with great ease.
Now get down to your crucial smart appliances at home — your CCTV could be hacked, and your home won’t be private anymore. Your smart microwave could be controlled and used against you. Your thermostat could cause damage and your vacuum cleaner could send back the location and map of every furniture and living being in your home. Worse – your smart lock could allow anyone to gain access to your home. While this may not be the case in future (as things will definitely get more and more secure), one can never guarantee it as the hacker today is smarter and one step ahead of the good guys.
Well, as mentioned, gifting season is around the corner, and probably the best gift for your loved ones could be that smart speaker or a handy fitness tracker.
But hold on — before you gift something similar, accept one from someone, or simply plan to own one for yourself citing those jaw-dropping sales around, you should know which smart devices are good enough, could be doubted and which are probably highly insecure.
Mozilla Foundation, a non-profit organisation behind the famous Mozilla Firefox browser, has put out a list of smart devices that could help you know which devices are safe and which should probably be avoided — at least for now. Their recent guide called “Privacy Not Included” lists out almost 70 such smart devices that could be safe and could also hamper your loved ones’ privacy.
The guide is a list created by taking votes from people who think they are creepy and could leak out their private lives to the unknown. Each product has its pros and cons, and each gadget can be controlled by some way or the other — either directly, through the cloud or via your network.
Take for example, Amazon’s Fire HD Kids Edition tablet. This table is designed mainly for kids with a rugged body and tons of kids’ educational and entertainment apps. Of the 367 votes it received, 34% were likely to buy one for their kids while 66% refused citing privacy invasion issues. 15% stated they were safe for their kids, but almost 70% people stated that they were in the ‘somewhat creepy’ to ‘super creepy’ range on the privacy bar. Mozilla stated that the tablet can share information with 3rd parties. On the other hand, Amazon’s Echo Show and Echo Spot also received the maximum number of votes (65% out of 988votes) for being one of the “super creepy” devices out there. The reasons — the camera and microphone could spy on you, while the app could leak out your location.
Check out the Mozilla “Privacy Not Included” list for yourself. You could vote for these devices based on your experience, knowledge and concerns.
None of the products listed there are endorsed as privacy invaders or spy gadgets. The guide is a vote-based list where people have voted for and against the product citing their own experiences, concerns and probabilities of it being a reason for privacy invasion. The list has almost every smart device out there, from kids toys such as robots and drones, to health and fitness wearables and smart devices such as speakers and security cameras.