Home electronic devices may be spying on us


Your home electronic devices, including Alexa and even your Roomba robot vacuum cleaner, may be collecting data about you and forwarding it to the manufacturer.  Privacy advocates say your data may then be sold or traded to other businesses or even the government.

Trouble is, it’s not being done without our consent.  Michael Garfield, KTRH tech expert, says whenever we download an app or activate a gizmo, we agree to it in the fine print.  “Every time that big agreement pops up, right before we click ‘Agree,’ which is called the End User License Agreement,’ the EULA,” he explains.  “And that gives those companies and those products opportunities to take your data and do whatever they want with it.”

“For the most part, I really have to side with the product manufacturers,” Garfield says, “and here’s why.  For the app to work, you do have to give and sign over some of your information.”  An obvious example, he says,  is a GPS device, which has to be able to track where you are.

He says maybe the EULA could be presented in an easier-to-read form, like a food nutrition label, so consumers can say “Yes, I agree to this part; no, I don’t agree to this part.” Meantime, he warns, the EULA may contain some slick wording.  “Roomba recently said they’re not going to sell that data of your home, which is fine,” Garfield says.  “But listen to the wording.  They may be able to trade that data to another third-party company.” 

In addition, while Garfield says he’s not a “conspiracy theorist,” he says the potential for abuse of personal data is a possibility.  “Maybe somebody knows what time I do come in, what time I do leave, what groceries I buy, what TV shows I watch,” he says.  “As some point they may figure out who I vote for.  The may figure out what my taxes are.”  So wariness and caution, he says, are still the way to go.


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