December 8, 2020

Privacy Tip of the Week: Increase Your Smart Home Assistant Privacy

Posted by Rhiannon

We’re deep into the holiday shopping season, now that Black Friday has come and gone. Every year, technology serves as some of the most popular gift items. Phones, tablets, and more find their way under trees and into stockings. In addition, smart home devices like the Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa-enabled Echo, make great gifts for millions of people around the world. However, if you’re giving or receiving smart devices, consider these tips for increasing your smart home assistant privacy:

  • Delete your request history
  • Turn on recording alerts
  • Mute it
  • Opt out of sharing

Delete Your Request History

Every time you ask your home assistants a question or make a request of them, a recording of your query is stored in the servers of whichever brand you use. These recordings may be listened to and analyzed by a human employee (ostensibly for service improvement purposes). While you may not worry if your requests for a potato salad recipe are heard by human ears, you may ask more sensitive questions without thinking about it, or may even start seeing ads for related recipes or ingredients (meaning your data is used for advertising). 

Rather than allowing data storage and analysis, consider deleting your request history. You can delete your data or learn how through the apps associated with each of the smart home assistant brands.

Turn on Recording Alerts

Another method of increasing your smart home assistant privacy is by turning on audible recording alerts. Typically, these devices only turn on with a “wake word” (“okay Google,” “Alexa,” etc.). However, owners of smart assistants know that sometimes they mishear similar words and activate, or simply activate for no reason. When this happens, they may record your words and conversations without you realizing it. To prevent this, turn on audible recording alerts; these sound-based notifications will let you know your device has turned on and is listening, so you can pause your conversation and wait until it turns back off.

Mute It

If you don’t want your device turning on and listening to your conversations at all, you can simply mute them. Google’s Home devices and Amazon’s Echo have physical buttons to do this. Meanwhile, Apple’s devices have a toggle in their app. If you’re still worried about the functionality of these buttons (and don’t trust them to work), you can also try the foolproof method of simply unplugging your smart home assistants.

Opt Out of Sharing

Not all smart home manufacturers allow users to opt out of sharing recordings, however some do. If your device does allow this, consider opting out so your recordings won’t be shared with the companies behind the technology. If this is something you think you’ll do, research potential devices before buying one. This will prevent you from getting a nasty shock when you realize your data will be collected, shared, and stored whether you want it to or not.

If you’re looking for more ways to protect yourself online, use a VPN whenever you connect to the internet. HotBot VPN is now available as an iOS and Android app, as well as for Windows devices. Our service masks your location, anonymizes your data, and helps you access censored and geo-locked content.

Posted by Rhiannon

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