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Technology commentator Peter Griffin says consumers are putting more faith in the hands of the big tech companies to protect their privacy.

MONIQUE FORD/STUFF

Technology commentator Peter Griffin says consumers are putting more faith in the hands of the big tech companies to protect their privacy.

Your new smartwatch has shaved minutes of your day that you might spend checking emails, receiving calls and listening to tunes, but is the security trade-off worth it? 

Consumer watchdog groups around the world are reminding people of the privacy concerns smart products raise as new devices continue to enter the market.

In 2017, the Norwegian Consumer Council and a UK-based security firm tested four smart watches sold for children. It revealed the devices had serious security flaws, unreliable safety features, making it easy for hackers to gain access to children’s real time location and audio. 

Technology commentator Peter Griffin said consumers were putting more faith in the hands of the big tech companies to protect their privacy.

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There are 23.1 billion connected devices installed globally.

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There are 23.1 billion connected devices installed globally.

“The big one that everyone is adopting is the smart devices for your home. That’s an unprecedented amount of private information, they know your buying preferences, location, they have access to photos, calendars, emails contacts. It’s critical that [tech companies] protect that,” Griffin said.

He said as most smart devices relied on artificial intelligence to evolve, tech companies had slashed the prices of the devices to encourage more people to buy them so the AI could develop.

The second generation Amazon Echo retails for about $180.

Since the Cambridge Analytica scandal last year, and subsequent European Commission’s General Data Protection Regulation most tech companies changed their privacy polices but a particular area of concern, Griffin said, was smart toys.

“Information that can be recorded from toys – because a lot of the smart toy makers don’t have the critical mass of a Microsoft or a Amazon or a Google, they’re just not quite there when it comes to security.”

“There have been cases of some of those recorded messages going into the cloud over the internet and that information has been compromised. They can be more compromised to hackers using them as remote microphones,” he said.

A 2018 investigation by Belgium consumer group Test-Achats found nearly half of 19 smart products reviewed had security flaws. These faults meant hackers could control the device remotely and intercept data being sent.

And according to Consumers International, there are currently 23.1 billion connected devices installed globally, a figure expected to triple by 2025.

Griffin said in a world where data was growing in value, the best way to protect it was still to use strong passwords and change them frequently.

“The big dilemma you face is handing over a lot of this control and the only way that will keep those businesses open and operate in our best interest is proper regulatory oversight…Protections need to be in place when you’re giving so much trust to big offshore tech companies to take care of your private information.”

Here are Consumer NZ’s tips to protecting your data:

– Set strong passwords

– Just like computers, update your smart products

– Look for any extra security features available in the settings.

– Submit only the minimum amount of personal data needed

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