Is your house spying on you?

(AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — They’re becoming part of our lives, internet-connected cameras, TV’s, baby monitors, and the newest electronic “must haves” Amazon Echo and Google Home. But, all that electronic wizardry comes at a cost to your privacy.

Here are 8 devices that could be spying on you:

  • Smart TV
  • Your computer web cam
  • Baby monitor
  • Home Security Camera
  • Amazon Echo
  • Google Home
  • Internet-connected doorbell
  • Internet appliances

Candi Taylor worries what her smart TV could be doing something other than entertaining her. “Privacy is privacy.  I don’t care if you’re God himself coming down to look at me. At least warn me,” she said.

You aren’t getting any warning for the kinds of privacy invasions going on in the cyber world. “Any technology that you bring into your house could be abused and used against you,” said Professor Laura Malave. She specializes in cyber security at St. Petersburg College.

“Alexa” and “Google Home” record everything you say after the “wake word.” The audio is stored in the cloud.

“Someone hacks your account by getting your password, then they would be able to hear all of your stored recordings,” said Professor Malave.

And that can expose private information to just about anybody. Did you ask about a certain drug or medical condition, or relationship troubles? It’s all out there for the taking.

You can take an extreme measure and delete every recorded request. It can be done on the Amazon website. But Amazon warns: Doing so, will may cause Alexa to misunderstand your spoken commands. It “learns” your speech patterns as you use it.

Some Samsung and Vizio models can track what you watch and share it with advertisers. TV’s with voice recognition are the most vulnerable.  You can shut down this feature by getting into the “settings” of the TV.

For the person who is wanting extreme privacy, you can turn off all Smart TV functions and only use Apple TV, Roku, or some other means to receive internet video or content.

Alexis Veatch never turns on her laptop camera. When told, somebody could turn it on remotely, she had this response. “I’d be throwing it out the window.”

Apps like YouTube, on a smart TV open the door for data sharing. “That’s kind of like somebody going through your garbage. You definitely don’t want anybody seeing all your other stuff,” said Veatch.

You can protect yourself by changing the default user names and passwords.

“What they need to keep in mind is the privacy that all of this is tracking you throughout your different devices, it’s following you through the different apps,” said Professor Malave from SPC.

There’s a sure-fire way to make sure the webcam on your computer isn’t spying on you.  “I have a lot of friends who put sticky notes on their cameras cuz they’re scared somebody can hack into their web cams,” said laptop user, Emily Bernard.

Clever hackers could open bank accounts, watch you in your house, cause mischief by turning lights on and off, change TV channels and much more.

Of course, you can ditch it all and go old school. “If I could get rid of it and go back the old basic TV, I would,” said Candi Taylor.

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