The Smart Home: Convenience vs. Privacy

January 04, 2017
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The Internet of Things is making smart homes a reality. Sensors easily communicate with home appliances, such as your refrigerator or thermostat, to achieve the temperature you need. There’s no doubt that the smart home has made it easy for residents to enjoy conveniences that make it simple to operate their home from a distance or via automation. However, privacy is often a concern when creating a home with these modern-day conveniences. Whether you’re trying to upgrade your man cave with electronics that make enjoying your favorite game an automatically comfortable experience or you just want to upgrade your home with monitoring services that are easy to access while you are away, there are a few factors to take into consideration when deciding if foregoing some privacy is worth the many conveniences most smart devices offer.

1. Is it easy to hack?

Data breaches are nothing new to the business world. However, that is alarming when you consider how vulnerable your home could be if your smart home devices are hacked from afar. For example, there have been reports on how holes in security have been found and breached to broadcast private conversations from homes with smart devices. While there are no ways to completely foolproof your system from being hackable, there are a number of steps you can take to make sure you are less vulnerable to a data breach. For example, if your smart home system provides mobile access, it is vital that you use a password that is difficult to guess, such as one that combines random letters, numbers and characters. You made also want to consider a Password Manager application to provide an additional level of security. PC Magazine just published their list of top password managers for 2017. Additionally, make sure that you use a reputable smart home system brand or service. You don’t want to be caught off guard the next time you read or listen to the news and find out the brand or company you use for your smart home system has incurred a data breach. Doing your research can help save you from worry and headaches. Lastly, make sure you have the most recent software version for any smart home system or device you have installed to ensure you have the latest security updates.

2. Do the conveniences outweigh your privacy concerns?

While privacy is a major concern for many individuals considering installing a smart home system, sometimes the conveniences can outweigh that consideration. For example, smart homes offer not only the convenience of automation but also savings in energy and costs. You also have the benefit of keeping track of the activity that is going on in your home. For example, if you have a favorite beverage that always seems to run out, you can implement a smart home system that works to monitor your inventory in your mini-refrigerator or cooler in your man cave or garage. Moreover, surveillance is a huge benefit of using a smart home system. You can stay on top of any alarming activity that happens when you’re not looking, while you’re on vacation or while you’re away at work. If you find that these conveniences outweigh the privacy concerns you have, then upgrading your home with a smart home system may be the right choice for you. The following chart is a smart device guide you can use when weighing the pros and cons:

SmartDeviceTable

3. Does the company offer the level of privacy that you need?

If you want to feel safe, you need to find a smart home system that not only provides you with convenience but also with the height of security you need. That means you need to do your research and find reputable companies or brands that deliver on the promise of privacy and security. For example, TripWire recently reported on vulnerabilities reported across a variety of smart devices, from smart cameras susceptible to hacking to electronic door locks that could be electronically “picked.” While these security issues were quickly addressed by the companies, it’s important to research the security of devices you are considering for your home. You can check consumer reviews and guides to find ratings of the best smart home systems that are highly secure. You’ll also want to consider reviewing the brand or company’s policy on checking encryption and how it uses your information.

4. Does the smart home system opt you into information sharing services?

One factor that many man cave dwellers and residents overlook is the notion that the smart home system may be monitoring your activity for analytical purposes. Additionally, these devices may have you opted in to share your data with other third parties. If you’re wondering how this can be allowed in the first place, start by looking at the terms and agreements that you agree to when signing up for a subscription service or when ordering a smart home system. Some companies place verbiage in contracts that explains that customers are agreeing to share their information with the company’s partners. At the same time, these brands are obligated to offer a way to opt-out of the services. Some of the information can be used for monitoring analytics as well. Just make sure that you have read all the terms that you are agreeing to before signing over your private information.

Final Thoughts

Enjoying the conveniences that a smart home brings can be a no-brainer for any man cave dweller. However, you want to consider whether or not your smart home devices are putting your privacy/security at risk. If you’re planning on designing a man cave that takes advantage of smart home devices, contact an expert that can provide you with the right information, whether it comes directly from the expert or from credible sources that he or she provides. Through their Buying Guides, Consumer Reports offers thorough evaluations of available brands of smart devices like thermostats and electronic locks, including security concerns, like whether the device has been successfully hacked or the protection it offers. Tom’s Guide and The Wirecutter similarly provide tested review of smart home products. Whatever route you decide to take, make sure you are taking the factors that matter the most to you into consideration before making your final decision.

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