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Proposed label would tell you security and privacy features of smart devices

Posted at 11:09 AM, Dec 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-16 11:09:47-05

We have increasingly been hearing about security and privacy problems with smart devices that are connected to the internet. All of these devices, from doorbells to thermostats, could one day have what's almost like a nutrition label on them.

The label would tell you about the security and privacy features of the device.

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University came up with the design for what the label could look like.

The researchers want to have the label on the packaging and the website. They expect there would still be impulse buys where you would disregard the label, but it would help in other situations.

“When they're making a more considered purchase for their home or if they're giving it as a gift to some else or if it's something that's more sensitive, I’m not just buying a light bulb, but I'm buying something that's health-related or something that has a video camera attached to it and I want to know where that video data is going, then I expect people will pay attention,” said Lorrie Cranor, Director of CyLab.

Cranor, one of researchers who has been working on this, says the biggest obstacle right now is getting companies to buy in.

She says to really have widespread adoption, there needs to be regulation that requires it. A number of pieces of regulation in Congress have mentioned the idea of a label, but none of them have advanced.

She says having marketplaces require it would help as well.

“You want your item to be sold in Best Buy or on Amazon or whatever, you have to have this label or we're going to feature the products that have this label,” said Cranor.

This proposed label is for when you're buying a smart device, but there's already a recently created tool to find out about the smart cameras or location trackers you didn't buy that you may encounter around the city.

The IoT Assistant app will notify you how your data is being collected by those devices. You can download it for free in the App Store or Google Play.