These gadgets could be the worst possible gifts this Christmas - here’s why

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Browser and VPN provider Mozilla has published the latest edition of the *Privacy Not Included shopping guide, to help people make better informed buying decisions ahead of Christmas. 

Based on roughly 1,000 hours of research into popular internet-connected devices and their associated privacy policies, the guide offers a rundown of the “creepiest” gadgets on the market.

At the top of Mozilla’s naughty list this year sit the Amazon Echo, Facebook Portal and NordicTrack Treadmill, each of which collect a large quantity of user data of various kinds, the company asserts.

Naughty or nice?

More specifically, Mozilla notes that the smart devices from Amazon and Facebook (which both feature Alexa) are configured to record all voice commands they receive, which are then relayed back to the vendor’s servers. They also collect a range of metadata that can be used for the purposes of targeted advertising.

NordicTrack, meanwhile, reserves the right to sell user data, and contact users via SMS message or telephone, even if their number is on a “Do-Not-Call list”. The company may also receive data on users from various third parties, such as data brokers and aggregators.

Also featured on the *Privacy Not Included list are products from Peloton, Samsung, Huawei, DJI, Roku and other major companies.

Alternative Christmas gifts

The objective of the guide, says Mozilla, is to arm shoppers with the necessary information to make informed buying decisions, but also to apply pressure on technology vendors to design products with user privacy front of mind.

The company believes the burden has fallen on consumers to safeguard their own privacy for too long, and it’s time technology vendors were more transparent about the data they collect and how it is used.

“While gadgets may be getting smarter, they are also getting creepier and way more prone to security lapses and data leaks - even among leading companies like Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook,” said Jen Caltrider, lead researcher on *Privacy Not Included.

“We also found that consumers continue to shoulder way too much of the responsibility to protect their own privacy and security. Consumers are asked to read complicated documents scattered across multiple websites to even begin to understand how their data is being used.”

It’s not all doom and gloom, however. In addition to highlighting the gadgets it believes present the greatest risk to consumers, Mozilla has also published a list of 22 products that are unlikely to bring about an invasion of privacy.

At the top of this list sit the Garmin Venu, Apple Homepod Mini and iRobot Roombas, all of which are manufactured by companies with a strong privacy track record and that do not sell user data to third parties.

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Joel Khalili
News and Features Editor

Joel Khalili is the News and Features Editor at TechRadar Pro, covering cybersecurity, data privacy, cloud, AI, blockchain, internet infrastructure, 5G, data storage and computing. He's responsible for curating our news content, as well as commissioning and producing features on the technologies that are transforming the way the world does business.