Security

Smart Homes and Landlords: Privacy Concerns

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For many, the introduction of internet-connected smart devices in your home is a welcome change. Offering greater accessibility, enhanced features, increased security, and enabling communication between the seemingly endless number of devices in the IoT (Internet of Things), smart home devices provide us with a small glimpse of the future, today. However, for those who have a landlord or rent their apartment/condo, many of the promises of a smart home seem more of a threat to privacy.

An Example

Picture this, you are a tenant in a large apartment complex, and your landlord sends out a letter stating that each unit will soon be converted to a smart home. By adding an internet-connected lock, thermostat, water sensors, lights, doorbells, and a wireless control hub to manage it all, the landlord aims to both increase the safety and efficiency of each unit, as well as be able to raise the rent.

In this situation, the tenant would likely not have a voice in the decision. Instead, they would be forced to deal with the new features or leave on their own accord. Smart home devices have several benefits for the landlords, such as being able to monitor and control waste, energy, water, and the access of each unit. Although, in my opinion, the negative aspects of introducing this technology to a shared-living building far outweigh the positive.

Why This is Concerning

In recent news, hacked smart home devices have been on the rise, such as with the Nest Cam and their thermostats. Gaining access to these often poorly protected devices is quite simple, offering the intruder the ability to see with your camera, raise temperatures, and even turn on alarms. Wi-Fi networks are often less secure, and each added IoT device only adds fuel to the fire. Even without the actual threat of hackers, a device such as a smart lock would most likely have its PIN code stored with not only you, but the property manager as well. While you can do everything in your power to protect your network, who governs your landlord from offering the same level of protection to the very thing that will allow an intruder access to your apartment?

While a large percentage of the public view devices such as an Amazon Alexa as a helpful tool to have in their home, the same can be said for hackers and data firms. With an apartment filled with smart home devices, your very presence in the house is a way for companies to sell your data for profit. Think about it. The devices will know more about you than most of your friends do; what time you wake up, how often you are in your home, what temperature you keep your room at, your water and energy usage, and can potentially record your conversations. For example, this data, compiled by smart home companies, can be sold to organizations such as Cox Cable, to get a better understanding of when to schedule certain shows based on the time of the day most people are home. If you think all of this is science fiction, research the many methods Facebook uses your data for profit.

Another aspect to be aware of are smart lock’s security concerns. By sending a resident a code to unlock their door through SMS or email, they are intended to both protect your home and be able to access it remotely, like when you need to let your kid into the door after school while you are at work. However, what happens if you lose your phone or laptop? Not only would you already be at risk for an unauthorized individual to get into your personal information, bank accounts, and emails, but you would lose the accessibility to your home and enable someone else to have it.

Final Thoughts

Personally, I love adding technology to anything I can in life; although, I need to be in direct control of what it does and who manages it. For a single-family home, smart devices can ensure the safety of those who reside in it, offer many impressive features, and reduce energy and water waste. However, for those living in apartments or condos, I would have too many concerns over every aspect of the system/network to be comfortable to submitting my life at home to be accessed by our robotic overlords. Will I have a smart home when I buy my new house shortly, well of course; however, each minute detail of the entire functionality and security of each device will be thoroughly researched and governed. What do you think?

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