If you value your privacy, use “smart appliances” with extreme caution.
If you have a “smart appliance,” (and soon all appliances will be “smart”), be sure to read all the fine print associated with the Privacy Statement for your appliance. Below is a link to a Privacy Statement for Whirlpool Corporation. In some cases, the language is sufficiently complex that you may need the assistance of an attorney to help you understand the privacy implications of using a smart appliance.
Below are selected quotes from the linked Privacy Statement with BOLD print to emphasize key words or phrases. My general commentary on smart appliances after reading the Privacy Statement, would be: What privacy do you really have left if you actually use the smart features of such an appliance? And wouldn’t the privacy implications of using a smart meter installed by your utility be similar to that outlined by Whirlpool for a smart appliance?
“Information Collected by Whirlpool Corporation:
- If you use, connect or register a Smart Appliance, we may collect information about you, including your contact information, information about your Smart Appliance, information from your use of SmartPhone Applications or other third party devices (such as smart meters), and information collected by the Smart Appliance Services website.
- We may collect information from a variety of sources, including from you directly, from your Smart Appliance, from your use of the Smart Appliance Services, and from third party sources.”
“We may share certain information we collect from you (including Personal Information) with our brands and with third parties acting on our behalf.”
“We may use information we collect from you to provide you with the Smart Appliance Services, for troubleshooting and maintenance (including for warranty purposes), to communicate with you about your account or your appliance, to offer you products or services, and for other purposes.”
“We do not seek to, nor do we knowingly collect, information from children.”
“In order to provide you with the benefits of using the Smart Appliance Services, including providing customized cycles and helping to control your energy usage, among other uses, Whirlpool Corporation collects certain information from you, your Smart Appliance and devices and applications related to your Smart Appliance, such as your SmartPhone Applications or smart meter. By using the Smart Appliance Services or related devices, you consent to Whirlpool Corporation’s collection, use and sharing of the data as described in this Privacy Statement.”
“If you choose to use third party devices, such as smart meters, to manage your energy consumption or to use other related Smart Appliance features, Whirlpool Corporation may collect certain information from such devices (“Other Device Data”), including but not limited to your total home energy consumption, the individual energy consumption of another device, and your utility electric or gas rate plan (or your area’s general rate plan).”
“Whirlpool Corporation may also share Collected Information (including Personal Information) with third parties acting on our behalf, such as call center operators, shippers, servicers, people who analyze data for us, etc. Whirlpool Corporation may share Collected Data and Website Data with non-affiliated third parties without your consent (including for the reasons listed below), …”
“Whirlpool Corporation may disclose your information (including your Personal Information) as necessary (1) if we determine a website or policy violation has occurred, or to enforce the Whirlpool Corporation Smart Appliance Services Terms and Conditions; (2) if we believe such disclosure is necessary to identify, contract or bring legal action regarding injury or interference with the rights and property of Whirlpool Corporation, including to enforce Whirlpool Corporation’s rights against unauthorized access or attempted unauthorized access to Whirlpool Corporation’s information technology assets or against other inappropriate use of the Smart Appliance Services; (3) to comply with laws, regulations, court orders and subpoenas or similar requests for information by authorities, or as otherwise required by law; (4) to protect your safety and the safety of others; and (5) to assist us in fraud prevention or investigation.”
“Because the Smart Appliance Services are provided through wireless networks and the Internet, when you use the Smart Appliance Services, your communications may be intercepted by others. For this reason, Whirlpool Corporation cannot guarantee the security and privacy of wireless transmissions or transmissions via the Internet, and we will not be liable for any lack of security relating to the use of the Smart Appliance Services by you. You agree that you will not hold Whirlpool Corporation liable for any damages resulting from any loss of privacy or security occurring in connection with any communications over such networks.”
“If you would prefer to not have Whirlpool Corporation collect any Smart Appliance Data from your Smart Appliance, you will need to deprovision your Smart Appliance from your wireless router.”
Note: Another possible issue may be RF radiation. Although you may “deprovision” your smart appliance from a wireless router, it is not clear whether such action also completely deactivates the RF transmitter located within the appliance. I’ve seen conflicting reports on this issue and it may depend on the manufacturer. The only way to likely be able to tell for sure whether an appliance is emitting an RF signal is to test it with a portable meter.