CES 2018: smart devices bring convenience – and privacy concerns

Privacy, Business, Money, News

Every year, the annual CES (the now official name of the Consumer Electronics Show), leaves us hankering for the latest gadgets – and doing our best to block out fears about our shrinking privacy in the cloud-based, connected smart world.

The internet of things keeps expanding

A whole universe of new or newly updated interconnected gadgets lined the aisles of CES 2018, all promising to make our lives easier or better.

Buddy the personal robot earned a CES 2018 Innovation award. Buddy is not just able to turn the lights on and off or play your favorite music, he (it?) is a home companion who can roam around while you’re gone, keeping an eye on things or providing your pets company.

Nissan showcased a wearable device for automobile drivers that features B2V (brain-to-vehicle) technology. The device monitors and reads the driver’s brainwaves and communicates that information directly to the vehicle, enabling the car to react faster than they driver can – for example, by automatically applying the brakes a fraction of a second sooner than drivers can on their own.

The Angee wi-fi security camera has six motion tracking sensors that not only can follow an intruder’s movement but also can “learn” the homeowner’s patterns (through the homeowner’s smartphone) and stop recording and turn to face a wall when the homeowner is present.

L’Oreal showcased the L’Oreal UV Sense, a small, battery-free, wearable tracker that sticks to the wearer (it can be applied to a fingernail and disguised as nail art) and works with an app to track sunlight and UV exposure.

So, too, do privacy concerns

So, what happens with all these data that all these devices are gathering all the time? If the data is being saved in the cloud, what protections are in place?

These are good questions that don’t have satisfactory answers for many consumers. In Deloitte’s 2017 Global Mobile Consumer survey, the research firm found that “less than one in five clients believe they are very well informed about the security risks associated with connected home devices.” An even larger number of respondents (40 percent) voiced concern that too much of their personal lives are being revealed by smart technology and are worried they are being tracked.

Another legitimate concern is the security of the data that is collected by our devices. Last year’s Equifax breach demonstrated that even the most sensitive personal information can be vulnerable. While most people (80 percent in Deloitte’s survey) generally accept that companies are constantly collecting and using data about us, it doesn’t mean that privacy compromises are a given.

Consumers shouldn’t count on manufacturers to do all the heavy lifting. As Brian X. Chen wrote in The New York Times, “In the end, the onus is likely on you to protect yourself.” That said, Chen does have a useful guide to help you with that – here are a few of his tips:

  • Buy trusted brands that regularly issue software fixes
  • Read the manufacturer’s privacy policies – know what data the company is capturing and how it intends to use it
  • Connect your smart-home devices to a wi-fi network that is separate from the one you use with your computer, tablet, or smartphone

The promise of intelligent, interconnected devices is undoubtedly appealing – both to you and to hackers, so take care. No one wants their new smart toilet to flush their credit card number straight to the bad guys.