Smart home and privacy - how secure is your data?

How nice it is in winter, for example, to come home to a pleasantly heated apartment, freshly brewed coffee, discreetly playing music and a pleasantly lit living room. Amazon Echo, Apple Siri, Google Home and Co. make it possible. But the smart home can do even more. You can control the light by voice command or monitor your house remotely. Talk to the mailman at the front door while you're sitting in a café in town! Controlling the smart home by phone or via the home network is increasingly becoming the standard for comfortable living. But how secure are your data and to what extent is data protection guaranteed?

Hamburg - How to use your modern, networked smart home correctly and protect your data at the same time.

Convenience versus privacy: voice control in training 

The smart home can be controlled by voice command. A short voice activation like "Ok Google" or "Alexa" is sufficient to activate the respective language assistant. It listens to subsequent voice commands, implements them and records them. In most cases, the data is stored in a cloud. Providers such as Google and Amazon read out the data from these clouds for voice control training purposes and to improve their systems. But they record not only the command, but also the background sounds and other data. For the thoughtless user, the voice assistants in the smart home may develop into an involuntary bug. But this does not have to be the case, because data protection and modern technology are not contradictory when used correctly.

Smartphone privacy: security is a matter of settings

Artificial intelligence in the household saves time and certainly makes life more comfortable. However, you should not use smart home technology thoughtlessly. But even a few small settings on the system are usually enough to guarantee data protection. Regardless of whether you use Amazon or Google, you can usually make the data transfer settings directly in the app. For example, you can usually remove your consent for your data being used for system development purposes by changing the respective default setting. Regular security updates prevent hacker attacks, but are often not guaranteed for system solutions of smaller companies. Of course, your home network should always be encrypted, so that no third parties can access your data.

Use of data in the smart home in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulation

If the data is transmitted to a cloud or to a server outside your home, the GDPR applies. According to the General Data Protection Regulation, the owner of the data must explicitly consent to the storage of the data. This often happens during the first installation without the user being aware of it. So, pay attention to what you approve when you set up your smart home. The General Data Protection Regulation ensures that companies cannot just do what they want with your data. Companies are obligated to:

  • collect only necessary data

  • use the data only for the intended purpose

  • store personal data only to a limited extent

  • protect the data from misuse and unauthorised access by third parties

Of course, you have the right to demand access to your data at any time. In the respective Google Assistant, Siri or Alexa App, you will find in the privacy section the option to either view the data, request it or set the data usage in detail. Data protection is therefore something that, for most systems, each user can largely regulate himself. Before the purchase it is recommended to check the options offered by the respective provider. If you use the right settings, the smart home is as safe as using the Internet and the network in general.

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