Data Privacy and Your Home

Only a few decades ago, when it came to protecting your home’s privacy, you may have only had to consider physical protections concerning a fence or keeping your blinds closed to escape the gawking of a nosy neighbor. Today, with the onslaught of ever-changing technology, there are now other levels of privacy related to your home– namely, data privacy.

With so many homes today being built to include smart apps or even upgraded to have these options on older, existing homes it is important to be aware of how you might be inadvertently giving unwanted access to your personal information to others. Think previous homeowners or tenants of the house as well as contractors or service providers. 

Just as homeowners hope to protect their home’s physical safety and all of those who reside inside, so, too, should they tighten up protocols for protecting the home’s cyber security. Below are some important steps to get you started from the (formerly active) Online Trust Alliance: 

Gather and catalog all connected devices in the home. Consider service contracts, websites, and logins, as well as any type of manufacturer’s warranty or agreements. Systems like modems, garage door openers, wireless entry keypads, smoke detectors, sprinkler systems, security alarms, and even some smart appliances can store personal information.

Before occupying or closing on a home sale or purchase: 

  • Review privacy and data-sharing policies on each device or service
  • Obtain confirmation from previous occupants and vendors to ensure they no longer have administrative or user access
  • Submit change of ownership documentation (including, but not limited to, email addresses, cell phone, and work phone numbers) to ensure that you receive security and privacy notification updates
  • Review device warranties and support policies; consider simply disabling features of a system that is no longer covered by existing warranties or service providers
  • For remote access to any devices or systems, assess configuration settings and encryption and be sure to reset any privacy or data sharing settings such as microphones, cameras, or other functions of a particular device
  • Update home internet routers to ensure latest security protocols and consider disabling old ones
  • Update or replace any system logins or passwords with new, unique ones
  • Reset all gate or garage or front door access codes

These helpful reminders aren’t just good for those in an immediate situation for buying or selling a home. Even if you have lived at your current residence for a long time and plan on staying even longer, it is important to periodically check in with your home’s data privacy systems. Be sure you aren’t inadvertently leaving yourself or your house open to a security threat, either physical or financial. 

As a final addendum, if you live or move into a neighborhood that has a homeowner’s association (HOA), it is wise to check into their practices as well to ensure they are managing sensitive information regarding your home and those surrounding you.