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Buyer Beware: Keeping Your Family Cybersafe This Holiday Season

Buyer Beware: Keeping Your Family Cybersafe This Holiday SeasonAs 2021 draws to a close, the effects of the pandemic are still being felt in ways that no one expected. Economic inflation recently hit a level not seen since the 2008 financial collapse, driven by an unprecedented global supply chain crisis. The world is collectively holding its breath as we approach the holiday shopping season, with predictions that some products will remain backordered for months.

In this day and age, nearly every product has some sort of rudimentary electronics system in it that expands features and communicates with remote servers. Handheld gaming systems, for example, typically incorporate cameras and external sensors to enable augmented reality games, which makes privacy a serious concern.

There is a slippery slope here; as technology continues to grow ever more present in our daily lives, it can be easy to put on a tinfoil hat and worry that “they” are watching your every move. In some cases, no tinfoil hat is required. Smart home devices, nanny cams, and surveillance systems are quite literally designed to listen to your every word, a fact that is rarely given the consideration it deserves. Recognizing that technology and its many associated conveniences have become a part of daily life, there are some things you should know before fully embracing the smart home lifestyle.

Convenience versus security

Smart speakers can be extremely handy little gadgets. A voice-activated digital assistant can help set timers in the kitchen, remind anyone in earshot that the trash is picked up tomorrow, help with shopping lists, and even be used to play games and music. Extending these capabilities with smart plugs, door locks, and exterior lighting seems like a natural next step.

As soon as you experience the convenience of your front door unlocking when your smartphone is in range, the idea of going back to a physical key is about as appealing as downgrading from high-speed internet to dial-up. We get used to new conveniences in a hurry, but rarely do we pause to consider that convenience can come at the expense of safety and security.

Again, this is no simple matter of avoiding a trend. Smartphones are nearly ubiquitous, and many of us rely on our devices to access accounts, login to services, and schedule our busy days. Most of us will never really understand how these complicated mini-computers really work, but the good news is that we can still take basic precautions to secure our personal information. The cybersecurity company Kaspersky offers these helpful tips for smart speakers:

  1. Don’t speak any private information. This includes credit card numbers, passwords, social security numbers, or any other data you wouldn’t want a stranger to have. Treat the speaker like an eavesdropper, and be wary of what you say around it.
  2. Keep smart speakers away from the windows in your home. You’ll want to avoid showing criminals (who might be spying on you) that you have a smart speaker system. Doing this might also reduce the risks of laser hacks (despite these being quite rare and highly unlikely).
  3. Unplug your speaker when you’re not at home. If it is not being used (due to no one being around) — the speaker should be off. Doing this removes a potential risk to your home security and is probably one of the most overlooked options for making sure you stay secure.
  4. Always use a password manager. Well-protected passwords can be a safeguard against backdoor entry into your smart speaker and other electronic devices.

Even with the best safety precautions, an even bigger concern is whether courts can compel a service provider to produce your personal information in the event of an investigation into a crime or accident. The answer is: maybe. The old adage “The wheels of justice grind slow but exceedingly fine” is generally taken to mean that justice will ultimately be served. It is also true that the legal system is slow to change and adapt, and the pace of technological development has left many emerging situations without guiding precedent.

Many cases that revolve around compelling data from smart devices raise questions regarding First Amendment rights and a legal concept known as “reasonable expectation of privacy.” These complex arguments become nearly moot in light of the larger question of who actually owns your data. In these cases, forewarned is forearmed.

On the other hand, the vast majority of us are law-abiding citizens with nothing to hide. In the event of a home invasion, carjacking, or some other unforeseen incident, the data from smart devices may actually help clarify the circumstances of a case.

When you face any legal challenge, there’s no substitute for experience. The product liability and personal injury attorneys at Harris Lowry Manton LLP are here to help you tackle any situation, protect your family, and help get you the compensation you deserve. To discuss your case with one of our attorneys, you can contact us to schedule a free, confidential appointment or call our Atlanta office at 404-998-8847 or our Savannah office at 912-417-3774.



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