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Santa’s Data: This Holiday’s Tech Gifts Are Creepier Than Ever

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Santa’s Data: This Holiday’s Tech Gifts Are Creepier Than Ever

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Santa's Data: This Holiday's Tech Gifts Are Creepier Than Ever
Santa's Data: This Holiday's Tech Gifts Are Creepier Than Ever

Asking about Santa’s privacy policy is very rude.

It’s hard to believe, but 2022 is almost over, which means it’s time to start thinking about your holiday shopping. If gadgets are on your shopping list this year, remember that when you give the gift of technology, you’re also giving the tech industry mountains of personal data about your loved ones.

Mozilla, maker of the Firefox browser, just released its Privacy Holiday Gift Guide, which examines the data usage of 75 of the most popular tech devices of the year. The list includes the Apple Watch, Amazon Echo, Google Pixel Watch, Steam Deck, Sonos Speakers, and Meta Quest Pro. The results were dismal. More devices are targeting children’s data than ever before, and Mozilla says recent acquisitions by companies in the tech industry mean more data is making its way to companies such as Amazon and Google.

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“We are experiencing an unprecedented explosion of connected products,” Mozilla privacy researcher Misha Rikau said in a press release. “Now there are children’s toys, trash cans, sunglasses and vacuum cleaners going online and then collecting and sharing valuable personal information.”

Products from Amazon, Meta, Samsung, and Verizon are labeled by Mozilla with a “Privacy Not Included” warning, indicating serious privacy and security concerns.

No one reads every privacy policy they are forced to accept. it would be a full-time job. Mozilla researchers spent an average of 8 hours per product reviewing the byzantine policies associated with them. As you can imagine, they found that privacy policies have become more difficult for users. More devices serve multiple policies that you must adopt for different devices, apps, and features.

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Take Meta Quest Pro. To read the privacy policy, you need to open 14 different tabs in your browser and read over 37,700 words. It’s 6,747 words longer than A Christmas Carol and written in legalese rather than the comforting prose of Charles Dickens.

Quest Pro tracks you, your body, your eyes and your emotions in unprecedented ways. Mozilla says it will take about 5 hours to read the full privacy policy for Meta, formerly known as Facebook, which outlines how it will use all biometric data.

Other products have also raised privacy concerns. Barnes & Noble Nook sends location data to third parties. Why? Who knows (the answer is usually money). While the Samsung Galaxy SmartTag stores location data close to the belt, the company reserves the right to use this information for targeted advertising. Amazon says you can use the Echo Dot Kids Edition to make personalized shopping suggestions for kids.

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It’s a particularly bad holiday season for kids’ privacy, especially when it comes to smartwatches. Mozilla reviewed four different smartwatches marketed for kids, including GPS trackers, cameras, and microphones. All four received privacy warnings from Mozilla. Verizon’s Gizmo Watch is particularly troubling because it collects name, age, gender, email address, text messages, and more. collects such data as your communication passes through the device.

As tech giants increasingly dominate smaller companies, privacy concerns about tech holiday gifts are growing. For example, Amazon is buying the Roomba maker iRobot, whose product has already received a “Best” rating for above-average privacy practices. Google acquired FitBit in 2021, and the company announced that users will soon need to create Google accounts if they want to continue using FitBit products.

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Mozilla’s findings aren’t all bad news, however. The company has come up with a few products that deserve credit for being kinder to your data. Garmin includes privacy features for its smartwatches and fitness trackers by default. In fact, Sonos launched its own voice assistant with some privacy protections. Unlike Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant, Sonos’ voice assistant processes all your voice data directly on your device without sending it to the company’s servers.

Privacy has many other products that are not included in the shopping guide. Mozilla launched its database in 2017, and you can find information about hundreds of products and applications. You can see all of these are not included in Privacy.

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