Are your smart devices - including your smart meter - spying on you?
Smart meters are the latest 'smart' devices we are letting into our homes - but are they spying on us? And could they be hacked by criminals?
The devices are now in 7.7 million households across the UK and are designed to track how much electricity we use, in the hope that it would encourage people to cut down and reduce their bills.
However new concerns have emerged that smart meters could be letting others monitor your usage too, The Daily Mail reported.
Critics have referred to them as modern-day ‘Trojan horses’ that could harvest vast amounts of data about our activities.
For example, details about when your usage is highest could be passed to a telemarketing firm which will know the best time to call your house.
There is already proof that data from smart meters is being ‘monetised’.
An analytics company admitted it takes energy consumption data from smart meters to "build a highly personalised profile for every utility customer" and can then "provide a direct link to appropriate third-party organisations based on the customer’s identified character".
Meanwhile Trading standards chiefs have complained that energy firms are misleading customers by wrongly saying the devices are a legal requirement.
There are also worries their wireless connectivity may make them vulnerable to being hacked by criminals.
What else is spying on you?
Every day people give over information about themselves whether willingly or unwittingly to firms such as Apple, Amazon and Google.
As more of our lives becomes reliant on this technology there are fears it could be used by cyber-criminals, for example, to disable home security systems.
Meanwhile the capacity of modern devices to spy upon us is almost limitless.
Mobile phones can be tracked, pinpointing calls, texts and locations dating back years.
The latest gadgets Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Home speakers wirelessly connect to the internet and play music, set alarms, check the weather and shop online through voice control.
Is Alexa listening too?
Having a robotic ‘friend’ at home to play music, answer general knowledge questions, and switch on the heating and oven, is a marvel of 21st-century living.
But as much fun as it might be to give orders to Alexa, it should not be forgotten that when it sits in our living room or kitchen, it can pick up on every conversation.
Subsequently, it is able to send the signals back via wireless systems and Bluetooth to the vast technical centres in the desert of Nevada.
As users of computers, tablets, mobile phones and now smart meters, we still don't properly understand how technology giants can harvest and commercialise details about every aspect of our lives.
Just from a record of our ordering history, Amazon knows what books we have been reading, what electric shaver we use or what style of handbag we prefer.
As a result, they can offer up suggestions for future purchases based on our known tastes.
And we can't forget Facebook.
The social media giant is watching every one of its estimated two billion members’ interactions with other people.
It can track friendship groups and common interests, and then sell the data to advertisers.
Even a baby monitor can be hacked
Consumer magazine Which? reported that hackers search the web to find unsecured baby monitor cameras, and then exploit them. ‘They may do this for criminal gain, or just for kicks,’ it said.
Which? added gravely that you are ‘opening a gateway from your life to somewhere else’ by using one of these electronic devices.
Privacy is starting to become a lost cause.
If you have had problems with your smart meter - tell us about it here.
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