Safety concerns in today's smart home

Smart- and low-tech home

With more and more connected devices available, we push the limits of data privacy and energy consumption every day. But do most people feel this way strongly enough to actually change their behavior? Or are their homes just as "smart" (or plugged in) as ever? How concerned are we about the devices we have in our houses, and what precautions do we take to mitigate those concerns? We spoke to 1,000 people in the U.S. to find out.

We surveyed people living everywhere from the suburbs to densely packed urban areas about the details of their smart homes, or homes containing anything that automates elements of living, such as smart thermostats or smart assistants. Americans shared their top safety concerns and the steps they have taken to protect themselves and their privacy. Factors like location and generation often intensified our respondents' worries, while the population at large agreed on a few key points. If you're curious to see how your own concerns fit into the national smart-home movement, keep reading.

Key takeaways

  • The majority of Americans (60%) consider themselves to be very or even extremely concerned about the security of their smart home technology.
  • 29% of Americans do not always read their devices' terms and conditions before agreeing to share their information.
  • 69% of Americans leave at least one smart home device unplugged due to concerns about data security.

Standard in-home tech

Just how smart is the average home in the U.S. today? The first part of our study shows the most commonly owned smart devices and compares answers by rural, suburban and urban areas. We also looked at how positively each device impacted the individual as well as their reasons for buying the devices in the first place.

commonly owned smart home devices
Suburban homes were the most tech-friendly, or decked out in smart home basics, in comparison with those in rural and urban areas. Respondents who lived there were more likely to own the most popular smart devices, including smart TVs and speakers. More than a quarter even had a video doorbell.

Respondents agreed that of all their tech, their smart TVs had the biggest positive impact on their life. But when we asked about their reasons for purchasing tech in the first place, most were simply looking for entertainment (46%) as opposed to things such as peace of mind (26%) or handling household tasks (25%). Millennials especially appreciated their smart TVs and were more likely to purchase tech for entertainment as well.

Being smart about safety

Despite all of its advantages, tech can also pose a real threat to our safety. More than 1 in 3 Americans have been hacked or had their identities stolen, often due to a lapse in tech security. The next section of our study asks Americans how concerned they are about the security of their personal smart home tech and compares answers by brand affinities and location. We also asked about their biggest concerns and the actions they're taking to stay safe.

smart home security concerns
Despite how common tech ownership is, the majority of Americans (60%) considered themselves to be very or even extremely concerned about the security of their smart home technology. People living in rural areas were the most concerned about smart home security.

Password exploitation was the number one fear (41%), followed by identity theft (39%) and location tracking (36%). Though these fears are not irrational and are often realized on both personal and large-scale corporate levels, we found that most people were not taking basic precautions to prevent security breaches from happening. Only half considered their passwords to be strong, while even fewer set up two-factor authentication. It was also fairly common for people not to read their devices' terms and conditions before agreeing to share their information.

consumer statistics on smart device safety
We previously saw that smart TVs were the most commonly owned piece of smart home tech. Perhaps this is because people also felt that TVs were the most secure smart home device. Even still, smart TVs do accept passwords and have microphones. The FBI has also warned about TVs spying on you, but people seemed to be much more afraid of their smart speakers and home assistants, which most agreed were their least secure pieces of tech.

Lowering the bar for safety's sake

Instead of moving along with advancing technology, we found many respondents were regressing back to lower-tech versions of some devices as a result of their data security concerns. Our study wraps up with a look at this behavior and how it impacts certain purchases and generations.

smart devices due to data security concerns
Sixty-four percent of Americans reported this "regressive" behavior (i.e., purposely buying lower tech versions of some devices for security reasons). In the hopes of avoiding modern data and privacy concerns, 51% of respondents chose not to buy or upgrade their smartphone. Forty-five percent also opted out of a smart TV for the same reason. Ironically, 34% chose to forgo a security system in order to stay more secure.

Unfortunately for those choosing this regressive strategy, traditional devices may not have any security at all. In fact, some smartphone experts explain that you're actually leaving yourself more vulnerable by not upgrading your tech, since phones over two years old are easier to hack. Moreover, those who own security systems are proven to be much less likely to be the target of an attack.

Staying safe with tech

Americans ultimately understood today's very real cybersecurity risks but were often taking no steps to protect themselves. Some were even taking actions (like holding onto older phones) that left them more vulnerable to attack. While older generations were the most keenly aware of these fears, some Americans were nevertheless remaining plugged in.

If you're one of the many Americans choosing to stay plugged in despite safety concerns, make sure you're also choosing the best possible internet and tech options for you. Frontier keeps people connected to what matters most. The entertainment you want can be brought to your home at lightning speed, all at an affordable price and in a safe and secure way. To get started with Frontier, check to see which of our products are available in your neighborhood today.

Methodology and limitations

We surveyed 1,000 people who own a smart device other than their smartphone. Among them, 59% were men, and 41% were women. For generational breakdowns, the sample sizes were as follows:

  • Baby boomers: 153
  • Generation X: 355
  • Millennials: 358
  • Generation Z: 134

For short, open-ended questions, outliers were removed. To help ensure that all respondents took our survey seriously, they were required to identify and correctly answer an attention-check question.

These data rely on self-reporting by the respondents and are only exploratory. Issues with self-reported responses include, but aren't limited to, exaggeration, selective memory, telescoping, attribution and bias. All values are based on estimation.

Fair use statement

One way to stay safe on the tech you're using right at this moment is to help share recent, data-backed information on the subject. If you'd like to share this article, just be sure your purposes are noncommercial and that you link back to this page.