Two studies reveal data collection practices of smart devices and cars

06/09/2023 | The Guardian

A study by consumer champion Which? revealed Internet of Things devices are collecting personal data that could potentially be shared with social media firms such as TikTok. The study found that smart devices are gathering more data than necessary to function, such as smart TVs requesting information about user viewing habits and smart washing machines requiring people's date of birth. Rocio Concha, director of policy and advocacy at Which?, called for companies to only collect data needed to provide their service and not bury important information in lengthy terms and conditions. The report analysed the data collection practices of popular brands behind a range of smart devices and found that every brand required exact location data despite its potential irrelevance to the product's functionality.

In a statement responding to the Which? study, Stephen Almond, Executive Director for Regulatory Risk at the Information Commissioner's Office, said, "People should be able to enjoy the benefits of using their connected devices without having excessive amounts of their personal data gathered. This simply isn’t a price we expect to pay... To maintain trust in these products companies must be transparent about the data they collect and how they use it, and ensure that the data is not used or shared in ways that people would not expect. The ICO is developing guidance on data protection and Internet of Things devices and we will act where we don’t see the rules being followed."

second study conducted by the Mozilla Foundation found that car manufacturers are collecting personal data on drivers, including sensitive information such as sexual activity. Mozilla conducted tests on 25 car brands and found that all of them failed consumer privacy tests. The research revealed that 84% of car companies review, share or sell data collected from car owners. The personal data collected by all brands was found to be excessive and used for reasons unrelated to the operation of the vehicle. 

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Smart speaker, IoT, Internet of things

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