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Who owns the data from a smart home? Homeowner, device owner, or a third party?

Your smart home may know more about you than you think – who owns that data?

Just how smart is your smart home? Access to convenience, energy efficiency, and security are the attributes that hook homeowners the most. According to a survey conducted by Coldwell Banker and CNET, 57 percent of smart device owners say their devices save them time, 45 percent of smart device owners report their devices save them money and 72 percent of smart device owners state their devices make them feel safer.

That said, I think it’s important to reiterate why you should not only know what smart home features do, but that the idea that the data use is complicated.

Is Big Brother watching?

Saying that your smart home is “connected” is just the tip of the iceberg. A smart home is more than a collection of smart devices. points out that you could live in a house with many smart devices that are connected to the Internet, but that wouldn’t make the home a smart home.

If those devices are connected to each other and working in concert to automate a number of the home’s processes, that gets us a bit closer to a definition of smart home most people can agree with.

What’s needed is a central conduit. What’s referred to as a “smart” hub is the central device that allows all the different products (lights, locks, thermostats and more) to work together in a smart home. You need not have a hub in a home to use smart devices, but you need one if you want to truly automate the behavior of the various smart devices in your home.

Who owns the data?

ProPublica notes that the type of data collected will vary by device. For security devices, they may be collecting real-time video feeds; for door locks, it may be who arrives and when.

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In general, you, the consumer will own the data. However, each vendor’s terms can vary, so it is up to the consumer to make sure they have ownership of their data. The data collected by vendors can be used in a multitude of ways, from simple analytics to advanced algorithm improvement. These results are generally used by smart device companies to improve product development and provide additional services to their customers.

What about security?

Precautionary measures must be taken to preserve security as we move toward smart homes, smart cars, and smart buildings. The Federal Trade Commission even put out a report this year with best practices about how companies should notify their customers about data retention.

Device makers say that customers can opt in or out of sharing their personal information with developers and third-party apps. But customers may not always be aware of just how much information their devices are collecting about them in the first place.

Even as consumer awareness of connected devices increases, security remains at the core of the smart home experience, as ownership of the data varies per each device, and eventually governed by local real estate laws and/or contracts. Right now, it’s the wild west.

Resources for Realtors

Real estate practitioners, you should be able to intelligently express to your clients what conveys and what doesn’t when buying (like devices, data, etc.) as well as what measures must be taken when selling a home with any smart features.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) Center for Realtor Technology (CRT) has put together the most comprehensive guides available, tailored for practitioners, so get to know them:

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Written By

Nearly three decades living and working all over the world as a radio and television broadcast journalist in the United States Air Force, Staff Writer, Gary Picariello is now retired from the military and is focused on his writing career.


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