Family members have a way of showing up when you least expect them. No, I'm not talking about when Aunt Ethel mistakenly crashed your dinner party thinking you were hosting bridge night for her and her rowdy friends. This situation is way more cringy.

Many people don't realize how their data is being used — or that it's even being collected.

This "relative" is already snug and comfortable in your home, even though it's likely no one remembers inviting him in. And if you do, you certainly didn't think he'd stick around.

Don't worry, you didn't miss noticing such an event — and your parents didn't forget to share the news. In fact, they probably don't know anything about your Big Brother!

Big Brother

This guy is a piece of work.

He showed up out of nowhere, and now he won't leave. He spends every moment spying on you, promising to make life easier. Big Brother uses home technology to track every movement you make so he can report his findings to technology companies.

If you use: Big Brother is:
Voice-controlled speakers Likely recording personal conversations through an always-on microphone
Video doorbells Able to provide surveillance camera footage to police without your permission
Smart home devices Possibly collecting data about your household's daily rituals
Health-tracking bands with a microphone Learning your daily activity, voice, food intake, sleep patterns, and other health-related identifiers
In-home quadcopters with cameras Studying the entire layout of your home (in the name of security)
Smart thermostats Tracking energy usage and analyzing patterns to determine when you're away from home

So? What's the Problem?

Many people don't realize how their data is being used — or that it's even being collected. Others believe they can simply turn off certain features to prevent data collection or submit a request to customer service to delete old data. But it's not always that easy. For example, at least one video doorbell company refuses to delete recordings from their servers unless the user deactivates their account.

Companies claim the data is needed to create a better customer experience, but some share your information with their affiliates or make money by selling your data to third parties without your knowledge.

Here's What You Can do About It.

These are only a few examples of in-home devices mining your data for free, likely without your explicit permission. But consumers have choices. You can tell Big Brother to pack his bags by:

  • Advocating for stronger consumer privacy laws
  • Adjusting privacy settings on your devices to request that usage not be tracked
  • Reducing or eliminating tech devices that do not clearly disclose how collected data is used

Which will you choose?