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Here's how to stop your smart gadgets from "spying" on you

You don't have to feel like something's watching you!

Credit: Nest
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One of the more prominent concerns about smart devices is that, by nature, they’re designed to gather information about your family’s habits. For instance, some gadgets record snippets of audio when activated, while others may track your location via the smartphone in your pocket. Because of these data-collection processes, you might be concerned that your smart home devices are “spying” on you.

You can rest assured that technology brands aren’t maliciously spying on your family—they’re just trying to collect data to help their products function optimally. After all, the more information the device has on your habits and preferences, the better it can anticipate your needs.

However, if you’re uncomfortable with smart devices gathering information inside your home, there are a few ways you can stop them from spying.

1. Read the product’s privacy statement

If you’re like most people, you probably accepted your device’s “Terms and Conditions” without actually reading through them. It’s a good idea to revisit these documents, as they’ll outline exactly what information the product will collect and, often, how the company will handle your data. Knowing these details will help you decide which features to disable.

2. Disable voice assistants

Amazon Echo Alexa
Credit: Amazon
You can easily turn off your Echo's microphone.

If you have a smart device with voice control, you might be concerned that it’s recording your personal conversations. This isn’t exactly true—devices like the Amazon Echo only record audio clips when they hear their “hot words.”

When you do give the smart gadget a command, the audio clip is recorded and stored on Amazon’s servers. However, it’s worth noting you can delete your voice recordings via your Amazon account.

If you don't want this to happen, you can turn off voice control features on most smart devices. For instance, you can turn off an Echo’s microphone by pressing the microphone on/off button on the top of the device. Similarly, most smart TVs have an option to turn off voice control via their settings. Keep in mind, however, that this will disable some functionality.

3. Opt out of “invasive” features

Nest Learning Thermostat
Credit: Nest
Turn off location-tracking features through the Nest app.

Many smart devices allow you to opt out of features that could be construed as invasive. Whether it’s location-tracking via your smartphone or collecting data on your TV viewing history, most features can be disabled through the device’s settings.

For example, Nest’s Home/Away Assist feature uses the location of your smartphone to improve its devices’ Home/Away functionality. If you don’t like the idea of the gadget tracking your location, you can simply turn the feature off through the Nest app.

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It’s a good idea to turn off unused features anyway, as this will minimize the amount of data the device collects and make it harder for hackers to compromise your device—which brings us to our last tip!

4. Follow security best practices

Some people worry that hackers will take over smart devices and use the product’s camera or microphone to capture sensitive information. To prevent this from happening, you should follow accepted security practices, such as changing default login credentials, using strong passwords, and installing software updates as soon as possible. There are several other simple steps you can take to prevent your smart home gadgets from being hacked, as well.

By following these steps, you can reduce the amount of data your smart devices collect in your home. However, keep in mind that it's a trade off, and you may lose some functionality in the name of privacy.

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Credit: Jeremy Stamas

Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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