The proliferation of IoT devices in the home is a trend that’s only going to grow from here. From home assistants to smart refrigerators, these new devices make life easier as well as become our household companions. An emerging issue with these smart machines is who’s exactly listening in to our conversations and sniffing our data? Looking at a typical connected home, there are an array of devices snooping private data and sending it to distant servers.
- Your router is used by your ISP (such as AT&T and Comcast) to eavesdrop on your browsing habits to serve you targeted ads.
- Amazon’s Alexa is always listening in on your conversations, selectively deciding what to send back to Amazon’s servers. More disturbing, her interactions with you are designed to maximize Amazon’s profits.
- Smart trackers such as the Samsung Galaxy SmartTag tracks your online activity to show you tailored ads using a variety of ad networks.
- Your Ring smart doorbell is made by a company with a track record of not protecting users’ private data. This includes storing unencrypted customer data (which included video recordings) on a minimally-secured Amazon cloud server.
- Your smart exercise bike by Peloton takes part in trafficking your mobile advertising identifiers. There’s also the larger issue of your bike becoming worthless if you stop paying your monthly subscription. You don’t actually own these connected devices in the traditional sense, an issue that will be a growing concern as more connected devices enter the home.
A New Privacy Layer for the Home
Some home IoT devices can be used with minimal regard for data privacy. For example, you might not care if the feeding times for your dog (as reported by your smart feeding bowl) are sitting on a remote server somewhere. However, there are other smart devices where you’d rather keep the data private and safe from data breaches.
Some examples of app data you’d rather keep private might include a smart health monitoring device that stores vital readings and possibly very personal genetic data. You might have an app that regularly scans for new ancestry information but your personal ancestral data you want kept encrypted locally. There’s going to be private data that you don’t necessarily want IoT devices and smart assistants parsing and storing on remote servers. What can someone do who wants to use applications for their smart home and personal health IoT devices in a private manner?
TEA Project Allows for Truly Private IoT Devices
In the TEA Project, the dApps in our ecosystem (known as TApps) travel to the mining node where it interacts with encrypted data. This is a much different architecture than traditional cloud computing where the data must travel to a remote server. In the future, home users can take advantage of this setup by running lite clients where they host TApps that parse their own private data. The TApps running on lite clients would allow home routers, IoT health devices, and even smartphones with their built-in TPM chips to run decentralized apps locally on their own data. Users who process their private data locally would also take some pressure off the existing cloud computing grid.
Some devices will interact with data that we don’t care has privacy and security risks sitting on some remote server. But data that’s more important, that we want to keep private, we can keep private and away from big corporation’s corrupt servers by keeping them local using the TEA Party’s TApps.