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Popular gifts this holiday season may come with digital privacy risks

A new report by Mozilla highlights how many companies are intentionally confusing in their privacy policies

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Photo (c) Niro Design - Getty Images
Many of the biggest gifts this holiday season require a WiFi connection, which calls into question companies’ privacy policies for each gadget or device. Protecting your digital information is important, and Mozilla’s *Privacy Not Included holiday guide revealed not only how many companies are intentionally confusing and misleading in their privacy disclosures, but also specifically what companies are doing with your personal data. 

*Privacy Not Included works to answer many of the questions consumers face when digitally connecting to new devices or sharing their personal information. They work to highlight the privacy and security red flags, and share that insight with consumers who are making big purchases. 

Just in time for the holidays, Mozilla published its holiday buyers guide, and identified which gifts may be problematic when it comes to privacy disclosures, and which are a guaranteed win for consumers’ security. 

“It feels like a Rube Goldberg experiment trying to navigate the privacy documentation companies throw at consumers,” said Jen Caltrider, lead research for *Privacy Not Included. “If I’m struggling to understand this as a privacy research, consumers are far worse off. That’s not right.” 

Where to steer clear

The 2022 holiday guide features information on more than 75 of the most popular gadgets this season, and a large number of those were flagged with *Privacy Not Included’s “super creepy” tag and general privacy warnings based on how they use consumers’ data. 

Each product is thoroughly reviewed by Mozilla’s researchers, and feature recommendations on whether or not to purchase these items – during the holidays or after. The product descriptions also go in-depth on how each company is using your private data, the risks associated with that, and general advice on how to protect your personal information. 

Facebook, Meta, and Amazon have several products at the top of the list of products for consumers to steer clear of. These include the Facebook and Meta Portal, the Amazon Kindle,  the Amazon Astro Robot, the Amazon Halo Rise, the Amazon Echo Studio, the Amazon Halo Band, and the Amazon Voice Remotes, among several others. 

However, the Barnes & Noble Nook, the Nintendo Switch, the Google FitBit Versa 4, the Samsung Galaxy Watch4, Roku Streaming Sticks, and the NordicTrack Treadmill, among countless others have also been flagged for privacy concerns. 

One of the biggest risks with many of these products is how closely they monitor consumers’ habits. They track which TV shows you like, when you turn your lights on and off, your location, your IP address, the names and phone numbers of people in your contact lists, and so much more. 

While this doesn’t always mean companies are selling or using your data nefariously, sometimes that very well could be the case. The information they collect is primarily used to flood your devices with targeted ads based on your interests and habits. However, it can also be shared with any number of third-party companies. 

Devices that are safe

Not every device or product should be purchased with caution or fear. *Privacy Not Included found several products, many of which are from some of the most well-known brands, that rank as the safest in terms of digital security. 

Some of these include Garmin Smartwatches, Sonos Speakers, Microsoft Surface Headphones 2, Apple HomePod Mini, Apple TV 4K, XBox Series X & S, Google Nest X Yale Lock, Apple AirPods and AirPods Pro, the Oura Ring, and Google Pixel Buds A-Series.  

While many of these products and devices are designed to improve our lives, bring us entertainment, help us exercise, or keep us safe, knowing how they use and access your personal data is imperative. 

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