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Britons suspicious of smart home technology security and privacy, survey reveals

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According to a survey, most Brits are concerned about the security and privacy implications of connected devices in their homes, although they may be willing to set their concerns aside if they see savings on their home insurance plans.

Smart home technology is an important segment of the Internet of Things (IoT): the interconnected network of devices in our homes, cities, workplaces and vehicles. While smart home devices such as Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant may be making their way to the shop floor, most British people remain unconvinced that they are safe and secure.

MoneySuperMarket, the price comparison website, carried out a poll of 2,000 people on smart home technology for its Connected Homes Hub. The survey found that 77 per cent of Brits were aware of connected homes, although few (six per cent) believed they knew a lot about them.

76 per cent said that they were concerned about the upcoming ‘smart homes revolution’ and the greatest cause for concern, according to the survey, is unapproved data collection.

Over the past years, headline after headline reveals that various smart devices have been collecting and storing users’ private data surreptitiously.

For instance, automated Roomba vacuum cleaners have been collecting information about the floor plans of homes, which could be sold to smart device manufacturers, and the FBI and European Commission have warned parents of the privacy and security risks relating to “smart toys” following reports of children’s conversations being recorded and stored. In March 2017, We-Vibe, a manufacturer of female sex aids, was forced to pay out CAD$4 million after it was found to be secretly collecting data about its users’ intimate habits.

In the US, Republicans and Democrats are working together in Congress on a bill to put down new regulatory measures to ensure the privacy and security of IoT devices.

Fear of smart devices being hacked was the second most commonly cited concern (51 per cent), followed by incapacitation by malware (43 per cent) and recording residents at home without their knowledge (42 per cent).

Through the constant monitoring of temperature, humidity, light intensity, appearance of people and dozens of other variables, smart home devices are able to build up a detailed picture of how the residents live.

For many, this is a serious cause for concern, but this mass collection of data could also serve to reduce the cost of bills (particularly energy bills) and home insurance. For instance, Neos, an insurance company, encourages its customers to use smart home devices to detect possible faults – such as leaks – and security risks as early as possible, the “prevention over cure” approach.

58 per cent said that they would buy a smart home device if it would result in savings on their home insurance.

“While a conventional burglar alarm will help to deter intruders, a smart home security system goes even further by keeping you informed with real-time notifications about threats such as break-ins, fire, flooding and even carbon monoxide levels,” said Krystian Zajac, chairman of Andrew Lucas London, a home automation company.

The survey also revealed that the most popular smart home device was a smart television, which 30 per cent of respondents already own, followed by a smart (energy) meter, owned by 16 per cent. The Government aims for every home in England, Wales and Scotland to have a smart meter installed by 2020; a goal which is looking increasingly unlikely to be met.

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