The countdown to Black Friday has begun, and November 27th is supposed to be the biggest shopping day of the year.
This time around, with so many physical stores closed around the world, shoppers will most likely move online, where they’ve already eyed the best deals on gadgets.
But as security experts often say, when you buy a gadget, you pay money to let a tech company keep tabs on you. And while this sounds dramatic, it’s sadly, the reality of our times.
So, if you don’t want to expose your personal information, here are seven privacy-invasive gadgets you should know about before adding them to your shopping cart.
1. Nintendo Switch
Nintendo Switch, one of the most popular gaming consoles for kids and adults alike, has always been a Black Friday trending product.
Once you own one, you’ll go to the eShop to get a game or two. But, with every buy, Nintendo collects details like your:
- Email address
- Phone number
- Date of birth
- Time zone
Nintendo can also collect your Switch data such as your device model and serial number, operating system, Internet Service Provider, IP address, and location.
Based on your activity in the eShop, Nintendo can find about your contacts, gameplays, and history of using Nintendo services.
As you can imagine, Nintendo uses all this info to tailor ads for you. And like plenty of other tech companies, Nintendo can share your information with third parties for custom ads.
Unfortunately, there is no way to opt-out of sharing your details. All you can do is ask Nintendo not to save your payment information and fill in your profile as little as possible.
2. Sonos One SL
This smart wireless speaker promises brilliant sound for any room in the house, including bathrooms. You can even add voice control via Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant.
However, you must know that Sonos sends those voice requests to Amazon and Google, even if the device itself doesn’t hang on to any of your voice recordings.
Some other things to take into account:
- When you go through the settings, you’ll find that “Additional usage data” is turned on by default.
- Sonos encourages you to connect your device to 3 party services, like Spotify or Apple, getting access to even more of your details.
What to do:
- Request voice recordings to be deleted.
- Opt-out of ‘Additional Usage Data’ collection.
- Don’t connect your Sonos to third party services. Use the music service directly, and just play it on your Sonos speaker.
Earlier this year, Sonos also had a privacy snafus when they sent an email to 450 customers, revealing all their email addresses to each other.
3. Sony Console PS4 and PS5
Sony’s PlayStation 4 has been on the market for years and continues to be a favorite for gamers.
However, the newly released version 8 software for PS 4 has raised some concerns among players. Within Sony’s Network Terms of Service, a note says, “Voice chats may be recorded for moderation.” This means that players can record voice chats and send them to Sony to be reviewed, but their final whereabouts are unknown.
Sony soon clarified in a blog post that this feature exists so that PlayStation 5 players can record voice chat and send them over to Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE) for moderation.
That may be sort of a relief. But the console can still access your mic, track your location, and unless you set a 2FA, someone can hack it.
Plus, some of the games you play on Sony PS4 are managed by other companies that might also collect and share your data. If you want to secure your personal data, it is recommended to have a gaming VPN.
4. Bose 700 Headphones
With so many people interested in experiencing noise-canceling headphones, the Bose 700 headphones have quickly become a top choice for music lovers.
Bose’s privacy settings state that the company may use or share anonymized personal data for marketing purposes. Still, several privacy researchers have indicated that such data can be de-anonymized.
A few years back, Bose even made a privacy slip as it appeared to have been secretly collecting personal information about users through the Bose app.
Plus, Bose allows you to pair headphones with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant – two products known to collect loads of personal information.
5. Jabra Elite 75 t earbuds
Another wireless product, the Jabra Elite 75t earbuds, is expected to top the sales charts on Black Friday. These earbuds are compatible with Apple and Android. Among other useful features, they let you personalize the settings and enjoy a battery life of up to 15 hours.
But they have more cons than pros.
For example, when connecting your earbuds to the Jabra+ app, they require permission for Bluetooth, push notifications, and location access.
The “Find My Jabra” feature requires always-on location access. This means it tracks where you were when the earbuds last disconnected from your device.
The app also collects user data. It monitors usage through log information such as where you tap within the app and how long the headphones are connected.
Sure, you can use the earbuds without the app. But you lose several features such as button customization, hear-through level adjustment, or access to white noise soundscapes.
There is no clear information regarding the ability to opt-out of sharing some or all your data.
6. Smart TVs
Does a Black Friday even exist if it doesn’t feature smart TVs on sale?
You probably did your fair share of streaming this year already, but you should be aware of how privacy-invasive smart TVs can be. Here’s what you need to pay attention to.
Most Smart TVs feature the Automatic Content Recognition (ACR) technology. The ACR tracks what you watch and then sells that data to advertisers.
What’s more, you can enjoy the perks of voice features for search and control the TV and its cameras for video chats and games.
But, in the wrong hands, the microphone and webcam on your Smart TV can turn into surveillance devices. An attacker can easily hack them. Researchers even discovered that law enforcement agencies created tools to turn some Smart TV microphones into remote listening devices.
So, if you want to stay safe, unless you don’t have a Smart TV VPN, don’t connect it to the internet, especially when you don’t really have to.
When setting up your TV, select the most restrictive options to limit your privacy exposure. Disable data sharing and connectivity as much as possible.
You can also check how to turn off your camera and microphone. If that’s not an option, at least put a piece of tape over the camera. That’s the most straightforward strategy, even for privacy-conscious users.
7. Robot vacuums
Housewife or not, who doesn’t like automatic cleaners? Robot vacuums will go from room to room, doing your least favorite chore for you. But they also gather a lot of dirt on you.
Most robot vacuums create a map of a cleaning job. This map is stored in the cloud, available to you via a mobile app.
But once you connect the device to your home’s internet, hackers can easily access it through your home’s Wi-Fi. Depending on your network settings, hackers might even be able to pinpoint your location.
The fact that many vacuum cleaners overlook encryption and don’t take measures to protect your privacy doesn’t help either.
However, there are some things you can do.
Contact your vacuum’s manufacturer and request that your data is not shared. If you still want to keep information such as cleaning durations, mapping, or any errors encountered, make sure the details are only available to you and not being sold to 3rd parties.
You’ll have a clean floor and no risk of your data being gathered, stored, or shared.
Protect your devices from prying eyes
Most likely, you don’t want tech companies or any intruder to know what music you listen to, what movies you like to watch, or how often you clean your home.
To reduce your digital footprint, what you need is a Virtual Private Network connection. If you want to understand more how it works, have a look at our ‘What is a VPN’ infographic.
With Virtual Private Network software, you can encrypt your data, prevent online tracking, and keep your Wi-Fi network safe from any snoopers.
So, enjoy your Black Friday deals, and remember the privacy tips to secure your device!
Is privacy something you consider when looking for gadgets? Did you have any of the devices mentioned on your shopping list?