With the Internet taking over our lives, there are suddenly big concerns about having cameras placed in every corner of our house. And recent incidents have shown us that, in some cases, we’re probably right to worry. The makers of smart home gadgets and software have been found mismanaging the private data and pictures of some of its users, making us wonder — is there anything we can actually do on our end to make ourselves less prone to these kinds of incidents?
You probably can’t fully bulletproof yourself — as long as you choose to rely on cloud-connected smart home gadgets, you depend on the company that makes them to make sure no one’s looking at you while you’re using the toilet. You can, however, take steps to safeguard your household against possible intrusions or breaches.
Is this really a serious concern?
Statistically, you shouldn’t have issues with people snooping into your private pictures, but a few recent incidents have brought this issue into the limelight enough to cause some concern.
For starters, a number of security vulnerabilities on Eufy cameras have surfaced recently, where smart cameras would upload video thumbnails and facial recognition data to the cloud regardless of whether you’re actually using Eufy’s cloud services. This followed another controversy from 2021, where some owners of Eufy cameras could bizarrely access live video feeds and recordings from other households.
In an older incident, back in 2020, some freelance workers living in Venezuela caused an online stir by uploading a few images snapped by a Roomba J7 robot vacuum, including an image of someone with their pants pulled down using the toilet. Those images were provided to startup Scale AI, where these people worked, and while the images were just meant to be labeled in order to train artificial intelligence, they made their way onto the internet.
While it’s highly unlikely anyone has looked at you while you’re using the bathroom, the fact that a very small number of people are being affected by such incidents might be reason enough to worry just a little. So what can you do to avoid this from happening to you?
1. Opt for non-cloud solutions
Most, if not all, incidents are related to compromising footage making it to the cloud. So one of the most surefire ways to keep this kind of thing from happening is to make sure that stuff doesn’t make it to the cloud in the first place. In other words, if you want to install a few smart cameras around the home, you should look for non-cloud solutions that offer local storage.
A number of options in our list for the best smart security cameras come with local storage as an alternative to cloud storage. It’s as simple as slipping a memory card inside; thus, you won’t need to worry about live video feeds being streamed through the internet. It’s not completely bulletproof as long as it’s connected to the internet — just look at what happened with Eufy cameras — but this sort of setup easily reduces the chances of your data being breached.
2. Consider a smart camera with a privacy shutter
There are a number of smart gadgets with a number of extra features to help ease your mind. While privacy shutters aren’t widespread, if you pick up a smart camera with one, it will let you physically block the camera if you don’t want it to look at you at any given time. It’s a feature in a number of laptop webcams, so if you have similar concerns about smart cameras — but you still want the convenience that comes with one — make sure to grab a device that comes complete with a privacy shutter.
We don’t have any specific recommendations about cameras with privacy shutter in our best smart security cameras list, but they do exist — just search for them on Amazon, make sure it’s from a reputable brand and it comes with the features you need, and buy one (or several).
3. Look up a brand’s privacy reputation
If you’d rather not go full paranoid, it might still be worthwhile to research a specific brand and see how well, or poorly, it’s faring as far as privacy goes. To do so, just look up the brand and see if there are any past incidents related to it, and see what its commitment to user privacy is like. If you don’t find anything that puts you off, it’s likely safe to buy.
If you research Eufy or iRobot’s record on privacy, you’ll find info about the incidents we mentioned above — and you’ll probably stay away from them as a result. Whatever brand of security cameras you’re buying, you want to make sure it has handled user data correctly in the past and that it’s actually committed to continuing this effort. You need to do your research to ensure you make an educated purchase.
4. Don’t get any security cameras
Perhaps the most radical option, but the only one that’s certain to work completely, is to not explore the idea of getting smart cameras. If you want to make sure no one will ever peek into your house, just don’t bring cameras into your home in the first place.
Smart cameras make your life way more convenient, but the sad truth is that if you opt to store your personal data in the cloud, it has a slim, yet non-zero, chance of being hacked. After all, you’ve probably seen all the recent incidents on the news with security and data breaches in a lot of online services like Uber and LastPass.
The chances of a breach affecting you are very, very low, and we’d argue it’s perfectly safe to use smart cameras despite the occasional breach. They usually only affect a very small amount of people anyway, so even if a breach happens, you’ll likely be okay just by sheer volume. But if the thought of a possible breach haunts you enough, then maybe you shouldn’t give smart cameras a shot in the first place. The odds are in your favor, so there’s probably nothing we can tell you to assuage your concerns.
Ensure your next smart camera purchase keeps things private
If you’re looking to give smart security cameras a shot in your home or office while keeping things as private as possible, simply make sure to take into account the tips provided above to ensure the most privacy-conscious approach.