Privacy and the internet of things is NOT compatible

Contributed by Jack Warner of

With the proliferation of virtual assistants, numerous privacy concerns are coming up. What with the privacy implications that come with having voice assistants who can keep records of every interaction that you have with them?

Just a simple act of saying 'ok' to Google electronics or 'hey' to Alexa activates them, from then your commands and conversations may be transcribed and recorded. This is usually done as a way of improving artificial intelligence voice recognition technology. With the internet of things gadgets like these assistants and more, security and privacy issues are raising even more concerns.

Image from

IoT can be defined as the connection of many devices on a global based network for the purpose of sharing information over the internet. Individual data which can usually contain private and personal information about the user is normally collected. In so doing, privacy and security issues associated with the Internet of things devices are presented, since such sensitive data can be used for malicious purposes.

In this age of hyper-connectivity doubled with the sensitive information stored in internet-connected devices, users are becoming more conscious about privacy violations. According to a report by Bloomberg, it has been found that Amazon uses humans in transcribing voice records from Alexa. Although some of these recordings are accidental, the fact is, voice assistants are flawed and can actually pick up false positives of their wake words. This can even include potential recordings of private conversations not meant for other people.

There are several reasons as to why the Internet of Things can be a great threat to your privacy and security;

Internet of things and 'creepy tech'

Following the fact that we are an image-hungry species, the internet of things has opened up new ways in which users can interact with virtual assistants using an interface on their tablet or phone. Since many IoT products are coming with a camera, a lot of vulnerabilities are being opened up to abuse.

A serious flaw in an IoT video camera which apparently allowed a user's camera footage to be viewed by a hacker was recently located by researchers at PenTestPartners. Although the issue was quickly fixed, the advent of consumer IoT devices has since plagued camera security flaws in a great way.

Abusive surveillance

Every time we think about surveillance, usually, the first thing that comes to mind is a government spying on its citizens. However, a study conducted by University College London (UCL) into the relationship between technology and domestic abuse, it was revealed that technology can actually provide the means needed to facilitate physical, psychological, economic and even emotional abuse.

The UCL report further revealed how internet of things technology can be used by abusive individuals as a way of controlling others. The opportunity of using IoT devices as tools for abusive control and spying are gradually increasing as IoT begins to take hold in our homes. Although it is considered as an uphill task, certain measures and mechanisms can be put in place by manufacturers of IoT devices as a way of preventing this vice.

Effect on manufacturers

The data collected by IoT devices normally consists of daily data journals for both individuals and organizations. It is, therefore, more likely that there will be more use of IoT devices in courtrooms.

While visual functionality through cameras is being offered in IoT products, many vulnerabilities found in these products can be based on resolutions and issues well known in the world of cybersecurity, unencrypted communication channels, and APIs and also having administration passwords that are easy to guess.


Although virtual assistants raise lots of privacy concerns, there are several ways in which audio records from the virtual assistants can be erased. It is also possible to turn off voice recognition whenever you do not want it.

However, it should be noted that the complete removal of these recordings is not guaranteed. As such, consumers of IoT devices must be aware of how technology can compromise their security and privacy.

On the other hand, manufacturers of these products can adhere to the specter of compliance and trust drives, as a way of ensuring good privacy practice.