Do you know what information your smart device collects?

phoneAre you aware that smart devices can collect information about your personal activities? If not, you are one of the 53% of British internet users that were unaware that smart devices such as smart TVs, fitness devices and in car-navigation systems can collect data.

Big Brother Watch has highlighted the potential dangers posed by smart technology. In evidence submitted to Parliament we argued that the introduction of smart meters could pose a threat to privacy by allowing an intimate picture of individuals’ daily lives to be built up.

The poll, published by TRUSTe ahead of its Internet of Things Privacy Summit, is especially significant given recent developments in EU regulations. Last week it was announced that all car owners would be required to fit their vehicles with so called “black boxes” to track their speeds and driving habits or face increased insurance premiums.

The research found that only half (47%) of internet users know that smart devices such as smart TVs, fitness devices and in-car navigation systems could collect data about their personal activities. On being told that this was the case:

  • 83% agreed that they would want to understand more about data being collected before using smart devices
  • 87% agreed that they would want to control the data being collected through smart devices before purchasing or using a device
  • 84% were concerned about the idea of personal information being collected by smart devices
  • 84% are concerned about the type of personal information collected through smart devices

Significantly only 18% of those surveyed agreed that the benefits of smart devices were enough to outweigh any and all privacy concerns. This emphasis on privacy mirrors the findings of previous polls in similar areas. For example a poll conducted for Big Brother Watch found that 79% of people globally were concerned about their privacy online.

The issue of the control of personal data is set to become ever more important as it is estimated that there will be around 26 billion connected devices in existence by 2020. This is why Big Brother Watch will continue to call for the introduction of custodial sentences for those who unlawfully obtain and disclose the personal information of others. This is a move that has been backed by a variety of Parliamentary select committees as well as organisations such as the ICO.

Technology has changed our lives beyond recognition, with many people’s lives made easier through vast amounts of data being available to them at a touch of a button. However, it is essential that the relationship works both ways; that companies are open and honest with their customers about what data is collected about them, how it is used and what safeguards are in place to ensure that it is only used in a necessary and proportionate way. The general public has been clear that they want to know about companies’ data collection practices, and those who fail to be transparent, will certainly face creating a backlash from their customers.