#CyberFLASH: Privacy watchdog takes part in global probe of connected devices

1297658073661_ORIGINALCanada’s federal privacy watchdog is participating in a global initiative that’s raising red flags about connected devices – everything from “smart” TVs to fitness-tracking wristbands and Internet-connected toys – and their failure to provide users with control over the personal information those gadgets collect.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) took part in the global “privacy sweep” in April, and is now releasing the results. The sweep involved 25 privacy authorities . It looked at 314 connected devices – often collectively referred to as the “Internet of Things” – and how they communicate their privacy practices. Canada’s focus was on 21 health and wellness devices that are popular among Canadians, including fitness trackers, smart watches, smart scales and blood pressure monitors.

They found that connected devices “fail to inform users about exactly what personal information is being collected and how it will be used” – including sensitive data such as health and financial information.

The OPC says that the concept of “the body as information” is a major focus, as health, genetic and biometric information is being tracked more than ever. During the sweep, staff used connected products and analyzed what information those devices asked for – and what privacy collection and protection information they provided to users. Nearly half of Canadian “sweepers” – OPC staff who tested the devices – and more than three-quarters of international sweepers were unable to find basic instructions on how to delete their data once they had begun using the devices.

The Global Privacy Enforcement Network, now in its fourth year, is a joint effort among privacy organizations in many countries, including the United States, Britain , members of the European Union and China, and has conducted such privacy sweeps before. By acting in tandem, the group is attempting to add global heft to major privacy concerns.

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