Maltese consumers warned over privacy concerns when using smart devices

A study by 25 international privacy regulators showed 59% of devices failed to adequately explain to customers how their personal information is collected, used and disclosed

The CAM said that the danger of Smart products was mainly that their software was vulnerable to hackers accessing the software and controlling it
The CAM said that the danger of Smart products was mainly that their software was vulnerable to hackers accessing the software and controlling it

Consumers have been told to protect their privacy over security concerns on smart products and devices, which collect their personal data.

The Consumers’ Association Malta (CAM) sent out a call for concern on World Consumers Day, saying that consumers had to protect their immunity to hacking of smart devices.

“A study by 25 international privacy regulators showed 59% of devices failed to adequately explain to customers how their personal information was collected, used and disclosed,” the association said.

Smart products, the most popular of which is the smartphone, also include games consoles, thermostats, toys, and cars which are able to collect and share information from the user and communicate with other smart products.

“Smart products are very convenient for consumers and facilitate daily life. There are smart systems today that are able to monitor your health and alert you when an anomaly is detected,” the CMA said, adding that these products had the ability to track a user’s location via the smartphone and anticipate a consumer’s purchasing intentions amongst other functions.

“We are not against these products because they are highly beneficial but we are mounting a campaign so that these products are safe and secure from hacking before they’re put to market,” the statement read.

With controversial data collection techniques becoming worldwide news in the last couple of years, World Consumer Rights Day is a reminder for attention to smart products that respect consumer privacy. Consumer’s International and the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC), of which the CAM is a member, are working so that governments draft legislation to ensure proper security.

“Very often online, websites will sell users’ data without users having any idea that this is happening. And even when users are told about it in the terms of service, these are often long and laborious reads, meaning users do not read important information. Consumer organisation CHOICE calculated you could read a book in the time it took to read Kindle’s privacy policy, and it would take the average American 250 hours to read all their digital contracts for a year.  It is clear that something needs to change if users are going to have all the information they need,” the CAM said.

By 2025, it is estimated that 91% of connections will provide wider access to mobile and mobile broadband services for more people. “We propose that an educational campaign be launched by public authorities to ensure that consumers are not only aware of privacy settings but how they can adjust them,” the CAM.

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