Protecting Your Privacy at Home

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Internet-connected devices can make your private habits public. (KFSN)

From baby monitor cameras to your thermostats, "smart" devices can leave you vulnerable.
We've all heard of smartphones, smart TVs, and even smart watches. Now the so-called "internet of things" has grown to include all kinds of appliances. These devices are designed to make your life easier, but Consumer Reports says some of them could put your privacy at risk.

Brewing coffee from bed, adjusting the temperature on your slow-cooker from anywhere; these are just some of the things you can do with connected devices and an app on your smart phone or tablet. Randee Shyer uses her wi-fi-connected baby monitor to keep an eye on her son when she's home and even when she's not: "If I leave him with a babysitter, I like to know what's going on."

But Consumer Reports says wi-fi monitors and other cameras are at risk for being hacked or viewed by strangers on the internet. Recently, Consumer Reports found a website that's dedicated to streaming cameras that aren't password protected. Consumer Reports' Glenn Derene said that invites trouble: "An unprotected camera is worse than no camera at all. You need to protect it with a password. And that goes for any device out there that collects personal information about you."

There are many connected devices that collect your personal info and send it over the internet: coffeemakers and crockpots know your brewing and cooking habits, activity trackers know how much you move and could even know your location using GPS, and smart thermostats know when you're home and when you're not. Some of this may not seem troubling, but a burglar armed with that info could know when you leave the house. While there's no evidence criminals are using this kind of data yet, Consumer Reports says you can reduce the amount of your information that's collected.

Derene suggests, "If you don't plan on using the connected features on a product, buy the non-connected version or just don't set it up on your Wi-Fi network. Remember, if it's not hooked up to a network, it's not sending your information out to the Internet." Consumer Reports also says you should turn off connected devices when you're not using them. If they're not live, they're not sending your data to the internet.
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