Most Internet of Things devices have privacy issues: study

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WATCH ABOVE: A study done by 25 data protection regulators shows there are privacy issues with some of the connected devices people use and wear. Global's Steve Silva reports. – Sep 22, 2016

The Information and Privacy Commissioner for Nova Scotia Catherine Tully says there are privacy issues with increasingly interconnected devices people are using – and sometimes wearing – in the province.

“We found that the patterns identified internationally occur here and some were even worse here,” she said on Thursday.

The international study was worked on by 25 data protection regulators.

The more than 300 Internet of Things devices they focused include devices like so-called smart thermostats and weight and health trackers.

Tully’s office focused on 14 health products that were found in drugstores.

“So, generally, blood glucose monitors, heart monitors, blood pressure monitors, some fitness bands,” among other products, she said.

The study determined that 59 per cent of devices reviewed didn’t properly explain to buyers how their personal information was collected, used and disclosed.

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Tully said, of the products reviewed in Nova Scotia, the rate is 90 per cent.

READ MORE: Did you pair your phone with a rental car? Don’t forget to wipe your data

Meanwhile, 100 per cent of the products reviewed here had contact information for a privacy officer; that’s compared to study’s overall rate of 38 per cent.

“As you combine all the pieces of data about us, it seems that companies know more about us than perhaps we know about ourselves,” Tully said.

The three pieces of advice she said she had for consumers are:

  1. Visit the website of the product you’re interested in buying: “Look at what they’re collecting and if you look at that list and think, ‘Why in the world are they collecting that?’ Chances are they’re collecting it to sell it.”
  2. Also on the website, find out who the information is being disclosed to “because, if they don’t, that’s also a problem.”
  3. Tweak the privacy settings of your device to satisfy your comfort level; often, the factory settings are quite open.

READ MORE: Automakers vow to protect consumer privacy in an era of connected cars

A news release on the matter [PDF] also showed that worldwide “68 per cent failed to properly explain how information was stored, 72 per cent failed to explain how customers could delete their information off the device.”

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