Skip to main content

Smart home technology needs to be more private to handle personal health

The privacy of the smart home has been a point of concern since the concept first came about. Many strides have been made toward keeping the smart home private, particularly with regard to always-listening devices and security cameras. That said, the question must be asked: Is it enough? Smart home technology continues to grow in capability, but in doing so, it gathers ever-more information about the user.

This holds particularly true now that CES 2021 is in the rearview. The previous year was one of increased awareness and focus on personal health, which led to the creation of numerous products that help users stay on top of potential problems.

Two products in particular come to mind: the Wellness Toilet by Toto and the Ettie Smart Video Doorbell. Both of these products collect health information, something that is protected by a slew of various laws and regulations in the mainstream market — but what of the smart home market?

Personal health on the horizon

The Wellness Toilet uses sensors to analyze not only the contents of the toilet but also the user’s skin. It can supposedly measure stress, fitness level, and other bodily conditions. While it is certainly important to know this information — after all, there is a wealth of medical information to be found in fecal matter, no matter how much people prefer to avoid the subject — what dangers does it open the user to?

The Ettie Smart Video Doorbell takes a different approach. It measures the body temperature of visitors when they arrive, warning the homeowner if the person has a fever. It also informs the visitor that their body temperature is abnormally high by flashing a red LED. Again, important health information, particularly at a time when the mere mention of a fever is enough to inspire panic.

If you think HIPAA will protect you, think again. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act applies only to medical professionals and those with access to your personal information — not to devices like the Wellness Toilet or the Ettie Smart Video Doorbell.

Video is one thing, health data is another

Vulnerabilities in your home network might open your smart devices up to unwanted eyes. While it is one thing for a hacker to spy on you through a security camera, it is something else entirely for medical information to become available to anyone with a packet sniffer. In the wrong hands, a person’s medical information can be damaging.

Though it may seem like a bit of a leap, there have been instances in the past that cause these to be valid concerns. A hacker terrorized a family through their security camera. Ring also saw numerous security breaches that caused fear among users. Though many steps have been taken and protections put into place, more are necessary to ensure personal data.

The dangers of compromised health data

The solution lies in encryption, as well as other safety precautions that can be taken. Whether it be an air-gapped system, much more advanced security features, or proprietary technology, the need for security is higher than ever before with health-focused smart technology soon to take over the market. It is one thing for a hacker to look into your home through a security camera, but it is something else entirely for someone to see into your body through health-focused technology.

Think about it: Employers tend to search Google for any stories about potential employees. If you’re applying for a job and your health information is out there, it can disqualify you. Even if the information isn’t particularly damaging, it can sway others’ opinions of you. For instance, if you suffer from a disorder that may make it difficult — but not impossible — for you to do a job, you will drop to the bottom of the list of candidates.

There are other diseases that make people pariahs to the general public. Auto-immune disorders are one example. Regardless of what afflictions you may suffer, it’s not something you want the general public to be aware of, especially if it is leaked and easily found through a Google search.

Ensuring this information isn’t readily available is the bare minimum that companies can do when they have access to your data. Steps can be taken to protect the information, whether through military-grade encryption, restricting access without two-factor authentication, and other security features are all necessary when vital personal information is on the line.

Editors' Recommendations

Samsung SmartThings gets Matter support on iOS
The Matter logo on a colorful background.

Matter continues to make headlines as we slowly roll through 2023. In the latest news, Samsung is bringing the Matter interoperability standard to the SmartThings iOS app. As long as your iPhone and SmartThings app are up to date, you’ll be able to enjoy full Matter support for the popular smart home controller.

Companies have been eager to roll out Matter to their devices and software, with Amazon and Google launching big updates at the tail end of 2022 that brought support to hot products such as the Echo Dot and Nest Hub Max. Now, it seems Samsung is joining the club.

Read more
Blink Wired Floodlight Camera offers heaps of features and an affordable price tag
The Blink Wired Floodlight installed outside.

Blink, an Amazon-owned company that produces a wide variety of smart home gadgets, today announced the Blink Wired Floodlight Camera. The affordable device clocks in at just $99 yet manages to offer 1080p video capture, 2,600 lumens of LED lighting, motion detection, and several other premium features.

While Blink’s catalog is comprised of several indoor and outdoor cameras, this is the company’s first true floodlight. Previously, homeowners needed to purchase a Floodlight Mount for the Blink Outdoor Camera, and even then they would only benefit from 700 lumens of LED lights. The Blink Wired Floodlight Camera, meanwhile, is a standalone product that doesn’t require a secondary purchase -- pick it up for $99, and you’re ready for installation.

Read more
Apple finally activates HomePod Mini’s hidden temperature/humidity sensor
Black HomePod mini on a side table, in front of an Apple TV

Apple recently revealed its second-gen HomePod, which is set to become the company’s flagship smart speaker in 2023. Featuring the S7 chipset, spatial audio, Matter compatibility, and tons of fancy room-sensing tech, the device is certain to be a hit when it launches in February. It’ll also feature a temperature and humidity sensor. Oddly enough, so does the existing HomePod Mini -- except Apple has only just activated the feature.

Apple has kept the temperature and humidity sensor deactivated for years, although now, with the launch of a new HomePod around the corner, the company has finally gone ahead and turned on the instrument in its existing Home Mini lineup. Once your HomePod Mini receives the update, you’ll be able to use it to track both the temperature and humidity in your home, then use that information to create various automations through Apple Home.

Read more