Smart-home devices, such as televisions and streaming boxes, are collecting reams of data — including sensitive information such as device locations — that is then being sent to third parties like advertisers and major tech companies, researchers said Tuesday.
As the findings show, even as privacy concerns have become a part of the discussion around consumer technology, new devices are adding to the hidden and often convoluted industry around data collection and monetization.
A team of researchers from Northeastern University and the Imperial College of London found that a variety of internet-connected devices collected and distributed data to outside companies, including smart TV and TV streaming devices from Roku and Amazon — even if a consumer did not interact with those companies.
“Nearly all TV devices in our testbeds contacts Netflix even though we never configured any TV with a Netflix account,” the Northeastern and Imperial College researchers wrote.
The researchers tested a total of 81 devices in the U.S. and U.K. in an effort to gain a broad idea of how much data is collected by smart-home devices, and where that data goes.
The research was first reported by The Financial Times.
The researchers found data sent to a variety of companies, some known to consumers including Google, Facebook and Amazon, as well as companies that operate out of the public eye such as Mixpanel.com, a company that tracks users to help companies improve their products.