Privacy — why smart device manufacturers need to stop relying on the internet to make their devices “smart”

If you’ve not seen The Social Dilemma on Netflix, go watch it. The big tech companies know so much more about the people that use their services than you might think. We’re all consumers, and by using a browser, owning a smartphone or having a smart home assistant, you’re telling (often inadvertently) these large corporations intimate details about you as a person, including how you think, what motivates you, what you like, what you dislike, which way you’re likely to vote, and much more.

It’s natural to feel uncomfortable with faceless organisations knowing so much about us, but because we rely so much on the internet in our daily lives, as well as the services and experiences we enjoy via smart devices and voice assistants, privacy has often been the sacrificial lamb of convenience. To illustrate, here are some simple steps you can take to find out just how much they know:

Requesting your data from Amazon

  1. Go to Request My Data
  2. Sign into your Amazon account
  3. Click Select Data Category
  4. Select Request All Your Data
  5. Click Submit Request
  6. Amazon will then send you a confirmation link (Confirm Data Request) to your email, which you must click on within five days

Amazon will then send you the data it keeps about you in around a month’s time. If it takes longer, they will notify you of a delay

Requesting your data from Facebook

  1. Log in to your Facebook account
  2. In the top right of your account, click the dropdown arrow
  3. Click Settings & privacy
  4. Click Settings
  5. Click Your Facebook information
  6. Click View next to Download your information
  7. Set the date range to All of my data and then click Create File

Facebook will then create a copy of all your information and will let you know when it is ready to download in a few hours.

Requesting your data from Google

  1. Log into your Google account
  2. Click on Privacy & personalization
  3. Scroll down and click on Download your data
  4. Tick everything and click Next step
  5. Under File type & size, change 2 GB to 50 GB to ensure everything saves in one folder
  6. Click Create export

Google will then send you an email when your export is complete, which can take between hours and days depending on the amount of data they have on you.

Requesting your data from Apple

  1. Log into your Apple account
  2. Scroll down to Data and privacy and click on Manage your data and privacy
  3. Sign in again if necessary
  4. Click on Request a copy of your data
  5. Click both instances of Select all and then Continue
  6. Change the maximum file size to 25 GB and click Complete request

Apple will then send you an email when your data is ready to download, which can take up to seven days.

What to do next…

When you eventually access the data these companies have on you, you may decide to change your privacy and personalisation settings, which you should be able to do from the settings page within each account.

But changing settings alone is unlikely to be enough to make consumers feel that their privacy is protected. People around the world are connecting more of their home devices to the cloud through smart technology — fridges, thermostats, lighting, soundbars, speakers and more. At the moment, these connected devices need the cloud to be able to work in a “smart” way, and that requires the user to share their data.

With this proliferation of smart devices in our homes, the privacy issue and related consumer concerns are going to move increasingly into the spotlight. While the big social media and tech companies are unlikely to change their ways any time soon, smart device manufacturers are uniquely positioned to offer an alternative solution. They can help protect their customers’ privacy while still embracing the convenience of smart technology, like voice control.

How? The only solution that can vastly improve privacy levels is to remove the cloud from the smart-thing equation as much as possible, ensuring that as much data as possible stays within the walls of the consumer’s home. This is where edge computing comes in — providing a firewall between the consumer’s privacy and the large corporations, while continuing to deliver valuable utility. Devices make decisions for themselves, and only send data to the cloud when the service absolutely needs it. Our crossover processor, xcore.ai, delivers just that — enabling devices to make smart decisions for themselves without needing the cloud to act as a decision-making brain unless completely necessary.

To find out more about how xcore.ai can address privacy and many other issues within the smart home, including human machine interaction, energy efficiency and more, take a look at our product page.

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