As home devices become increasingly dependent on the internet, consumers are enjoying greater convenience and connectivity. However, these advancements are making it easier for spying.
On Feb. 4, U.S. national intelligence director James Clapper confirmed this new threat while testifying before the Senate, The Guardian reported.
“In the future, intelligence services might use the [internet of things] for identification, surveillance, monitoring, location tracking, and targeting for recruitment, or to gain access to networks or user credentials,” Clapper said.
The “internet of things” refers to “smart” technology, which links up household items such as televisions, cameras, and thermostats to the internet.
The privacy issues of state-of-the-art televisions emerged in February 2015 after Samsung released a line of smart TVs that answered voice commands.
Customers were outraged to discover that everything that they said, including private information, in front of their televisions would be sent to a third party without encryption, where the audio was converted into text and stored, BBC reported.
While cell phones manufactured by companies like Apple encrypt data, many smart-technology products do not have these built-in safety measures. Cybersecurity expert Scott Wright told CBC News that this is because most manufacturers consider these products mundane and not attractive to hackers.
“Smart TVs and appliances are sort of communicating either with each other, just monitoring your activity and deciding what you might want to do next,” Wright told CBC News. “You can give them commands like the way you do to Siri, but the TV manufacturers haven’t really had a lot to think about in terms of security like Apple.”
Wright added that “there are a lot of ways that manufacturers have to start thinking about how their benign devices can, for lack of a better word, be weaponized.”
Ann Cavoukian, the executive director of Ryerson University’s Privacy and Big Data Institute, recommends that the public boycott companies that do not encrypt their products or are at least not transparent about how they store data.
“It’s a time for companies to accept more responsibility to secure their products,” Cavoukian said, according to CBC News.