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‘Smart home’ gadgets are probably spying on you, scientists warn

An Amazon Echo Spot smart speaker photographed on a kitchen counter, taken on January 9, 2019. (Photo by Olly Curtis/Future Publishing via Getty Images)
What data are smart gadgets really harvesting? (Photo by Olly Curtis/Future Publishing via Getty Images)

Gizmos such as ‘smart doorbells’ and Alexa speakers could be spying on you, British experts have warned.

Devices such as smart TVs, door locks, light bulbs, bathroom scales and toothbrushes all harvest information on their users - but where does it go?

Two British experts warned that the data users ‘share’ by using such devices may not be quite as private as they imagine.

Speaking at the Cheltenham Science Festival, Professor Chris Speed of the University of Edinburgh, 'There are third-party relationships between Google and the NHS - it means that if I'm sitting on an 'internet of things' toilet in England I don't know where my toilet activity has gone.

'It may well have been sold to a third party and I get a bundle of toilet roll on my doorstep two weeks' later.'

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He added: 'There are darker correlations. Who makes the decision that I need more toilet paper?

'The problem with data is that you can't follow it. You can try to regulate it but that is really hard to do.

'The internet of things is a great idea if you hang off the values but it is a really tough idea to follow through with regulation to ensure the values are kept appropriate for the community.'

Mr Joe Lindley, from the University of Lancaster, said having microchips inside everything was creating a massive security problem.

'There is no such thing as security,' he said.

'It is a problem. I really mean that there is no such thing as security.

'The rule of thumb inside cyber security is to assume that you are going to get broken into and to have a way of dealing with that when you do.

'If we are going to use these devices, it has to be tackled if we are to have these things as part of our lives, which we already do.

'It just has to be managed. I think pragmatism is the important thing here.