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Could Smart Homes Compromise Your Privacy?

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Imagine the home of the future. While these smart homes may not be connected to transportation pods like in “The Jetsons” or have pizza hydrators like in “Back to the Future Part II,” one thing’s for sure: Abodes will be increasingly high-tech, relying on the Internet to function. The enhanced connectivity in smart homes could result in a rise in hacking risks.

In 2015, things that were not Internet-enabled in the past — like thermometers and watches — are now connected online, known as the Internet of Things. While smart homes help link people with their loved ones on the outside through these devices, this increased connectivity also leaves them vulnerable to cyberattacks. Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Edith Ramirez recently raised data security and privacy concerns about the Internet of Things dominating the homes of tomorrow.

Delivering the keynote speech at the International Consumer Electronics Show, Ramirez said these devices could be hacked and consumers’ personal information could be stolen.

“In the not-too-distant future, many, if not most, aspects of our everyday lives will be digitally observed and stored,” Ramirez wrote for a speech at the CES convention, according to the New York Times. “That data trove will contain a wealth of revealing information that, when patched together, will present a deeply personal and startlingly complete picture of each of us.”

How to Protect Privacy in the Home of Tomorrow

As new technologies emerge — such as wearables for fitness tracking — companies will have to consider focusing on data minimization, Ramirez said, in which they only collect enough information needed for a specific purpose without saving it permanently.

While there is likely nothing stopping homes of the future from incorporating the use of smartphones and other Internet-enabled devices, tech manufacturers could incorporate better data security and privacy protection to guard against misuse of sensitive information.

Ann Cavoukian, executive director of Ryerson University’s Privacy and Big Data Institute, is the creator of Privacy by Design, which aims to maintain consumer privacy when using technology. Cavoukian said companies can accomplish privacy protection by establishing privacy settings as a default function for devices, which can include surveillance cameras and sensor technologies.

“We have to start thinking about privacy in a bigger way,” Cavoukian said, according to InformationWeek.

She added that context is significant in managing privacy.

With the home of tomorrow fast approaching and more devices are connected to the Internet and share data, manufacturers will have to invest in improving consumer data security before home break-ins take on a new meaning in an Internet-connected world.

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