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Smart devices raise privacy issues

News, 07 January 2015

SAN FRANCISCO: As more and more Americans own more and more connected devices, so they are increasingly troubled what is happening to the personal data being gathered.

An online survey for data privacy management company TRUSTe among a representative quota sample of 1,000 adults aged 18-75 found that 35% of online US consumers owned at least one smart device other than a smart phone, with smart TVs (20%) the most popular. Other devices owned included in-car navigation systems (12%), fitness bands (5%) and home alarm systems (4%).

Eight in ten respondents (79%) were concerned about the idea of their personal information being collected by smart devices and seven in ten (69%) believed they should own that data.

Only 20% thought the benefits of owning a smart device outweighed privacy concerns about the data they might collect. More than one in four (27%) mentioned concerns about the security or privacy of the data collected as a reason why they did not currently own a smart device.

More than half (55%) cited cost as a reason for not owning these devices, while 42% just didn't see the point of having them.

Asked about specific privacy and security issues, respondents showed the strongest concerns over personal information being collected and used in ways of which they were unaware (87%), identity theft (86%) and the spread of malware (86%). More than three quarters (78%) were also worried that their location might be revealed without their knowledge.

Chris Babel, CEO, TRUSTe observed that many consumers were embracing the convenience and benefits of connected devices, but added that access to and ownership of data was "a big question that the industry must address moving forward".

Even though consumers appeared to be conversant with the data gathering capabilities of their devices, fully 82% were not aware of the term 'Internet of Things' (IoT), despite analysts Gartner describing it last year as "the most over-hyped technology in development".

That hasn't stopped electronics giant Samsung from committing more than $100m in funding for the developer community to help create an open IoT ecosystem.

"The IoT is not a pipe dream any more, it's ready to go," chief executive BK Yoon told an audience at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. "Security must be baked into hardware and software at every level," he added.

Data sourced from TRUSTe, Guardian; additional content by Warc staff