Privacy in your smart health home: risks that you have to take into account
If you buy smart health products with an internet connection, then there are privacy risks involved. What should you take into account? In this article we provide an overview of the risks to your smart health home privacy. A fact that you must use wisely.
Setting up a smarthome is of course a lot of fun. It makes life easier and companies are responding strongly by making more and more “stupid devices” smart. But the more smart devices you get, the greater the risks to your privacy. All those devices with microphones and cameras on board hear and see everything, not to mention the devices that monitoring your habits and get a lot of data from your personal diagrams. Privacy should be at the top of your priority list.
When you start a smarthome, it can soon run out of scuppers. You start with a smart lamp or thermostat, buy a smart plug somewhere and before you know it you have several smart speakers or displays in the house where you can talk to get things done. Those speakers and displays make a lot of things easier, but are of course not necessary for the operation of your devices. Each device also has its own app, so your data stays in a controlled environment.
The risks to your privacy
And we immediately have the first risk: devices that constantly listen in, which are smart health connected to external servers for the execution of your commands. Not everyone feels comfortable when there are microphones everywhere (even though you can say the same about your smartphone, when it listens for commands such as “Hey Google” or “Hey Siri”). In general, however, such devices are only activated and send data to servers when you use the keywords.
However, we have seen examples where this went well. For example, the news came at the end of 2017 that the Google health home Mini constantly listened in to everything that was said. Although that problem was solved quickly, it did not speak in favor of the smart speaker in general. A few months later, Amazon Alexa did about the same and then went one step further: in addition to recording, a complete private conversation also became sent to a contact person. These are things you don’t want.
2019 also did not really start well for some companies. For example, it was reported in the news that some Ring employees (Ring is the manufacturer of popular doorbells and ehealth cameras) would have access to unencrypted images of users – which the company subsequently denied. In addition, companies like Google and Amazon increasingly to other manufacturers to get more information about users, something that those manufacturers are not happy with. Fortunately, they do not always answer the question.
Amazon does not always come out well anyway. Thus came in the news that Amazon employees could listen to recorded Alexa requests, the voice assistant gets access to medical data of users in the United States, employees would have had access to the location of users and Amazon literally considered the voice assistant to always listen. Fortunately, users can also delete their data more easily and more often; this is possible with, for example Google and Amazon.
So if you want to bring certain devices into your health home with microphones and cameras, make sure there are functions that you can use to turn those elements off in no time. For example, most smart speakers have a button that you can use to turn off the microphone and some cameras offer a privacy shutter (a small sliding cover that can be slid in front of the lens). It also helps to choose larger companies: their reputation is at stake when things go wrong, so they have to come up with solutions quickly.
You leave a digital trail
The more smart devices you get, the bigger the digital track you leave. Voice commands are stored and often used to improve services. Fortunately, you can often unsubscribe from such practices; then look for such functions when you have chosen a voice assistant for your smarthome. Or delete the data stored at companies. As stated above, this is possible in many cases. Sometimes you can delete everything and sometimes you have to do that per data item – but it is possible.
Other products can of course also leave a trail. Security cameras in the house immediately show whether someone is at health home or not, while a smart lock can reveal secrets about who comes in and at what times. Schedules for a thermostat, for example, are useful, but can also show that someone is at health home. If you use location services, the location on your smartphone is always on. And devices respond to that again, resulting in a huge pile of data.
A few tips
Of course you can do a lot yourself to limit the privacy risks. The best you can do is as little as possible Internet of Things– take devices in the house or at least keep the devices stupid that really don’t have to be smart (like your kettle). In addition, it is an idea to create a separate (WiFi) network for your smart devices. If someone invades your network, there is always a second layer that it must go through. This way you can protect your devices in the different networks.
Phrases are long and easy to remember, two requirements for a good and strong password. A passphrase like
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