Neighbours' IoT devices and privacy

Recently one of my neighbours must’ve gotten into home automation as pretty much every week my HA detects some new device of his. And herein lies my concern.

I feel like I’m snooping on the neighbours even though I do not want to. I know when he gets new lightbulbs, I know when he gets new plant sensors, he got an Oral-B toothbrush this morning etc as I see all these devices popping up in my HA (I have about 10 devices ignored so far). Now, I know it might be devices from multiple neighbours, but that doesn’t really alleviate the issue.

Most of my “meaningful devices” like lights, switches etc are on zigbee network, but I have several ble thermometers / plant sensors etc which I presume if someone else in the vicinity is using HA or similar system can access the data from?

Again, it might not seem like a big deal, but say I add neighbours toothbrush or lights into my HA, presumably I can then control them and/or read the temperature and so on? Take it a step further and a malicious actor could correlate the data from various devices to determine if the property is empty.

I guess the IoT system is inherently unsafe, and there isn’t anything I can do to stop seeing devices around me that ain’t mine same as I can’t stop others seeing mine, it just makes me a bit uncomfortable seeing neighbours devices if that makes sense.

Am I missing something here or is it really a case of “whoever adds the light into HA last shall control it”? Or can multiple HA’s control one light? If anybody around me added one of my devices into their HA, would I know?

Feels like very 1st world cyberpunk-ish concern to have maybe, I just can’t helping feeling intruding on my neighbours privacy when I see what devices they use and vice versa.

And that’s why there is no bluetooth stick in my HA server. And never will be. Bluetooth sucks :wink:

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Yeah I also have a neighbour with a toothbrush. I’m actually amazed that it’s not more privately sent.
I can see how often and how long she brushes her teeth.

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I’m keeping my use of promiscuous Bluetooth devices to a minimum. The promiscuity is just another -1 on my list of reasons to avoid Bluetooth for smart home devices.

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…And now you know what devices you should avoid. If they’re a friend maybe discuss iot security with them sometime in the future. They likely have no idea they’re broadcasting thier life like that. :wink:

Seriously though there’s nothing you can do about it. Keep ignoring the devices and move along…

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I don’t really know any of the neighbours that well beside saying hello when passing each other in the corridor, but I was just thinking I live in a relatively quiet neighbourhood, now I imagine in a large apartment complex you’d see possibly hundreds of devices and how did noone think about that when designing them.

I don’t really mind the few motion / thermometers / plant sensors that I use, my reasoning being how much light my plant’s getting or when I open my wardrobe is order of an magnitude lower privacy “breach” than knowing when and for how long I brush my teeth or when I turn off my lights and go to sleep/work. I guess I could always DIY my own sensors, but since I’m lazy I use what I use for the sake of convenience so I only got myself to blame.

Technically, it’s your neighbors toothbrush shouting out to anyone whom listens, so you shouldn’t feel uncomfortable by hearing it. The same happens at a party :slight_smile: . Now, this might be an opportunity to reach out to your neighbor (if you know who it is) and make them aware of the potential dangers of “default” settings of their new gadget. It might also be they are not users of home automation. If the gadget is well designed it should have some pairing ritual so you can’t just attach to it. But if you can: the act of taking control over the device would be invasion of privacy, not just a prank. Even if it’s just for reading.

motion / thermometers / plant sensors …

even toothbrushes - all good and fine. Where I think it’s gets downright dangerous and shows disputable design decisions on the device manufacturer side is when it involves security devices like door locks etc.

One reason why we didn’t pursue the decoder for such a lock and decided not to include it in our solution.

This still makes it easily possible for anyone with a bit of BLE knowledge to monitor such locks :wink:

Also the owners of any such devices have a responsibility to inform themselves of what kind of chatty devices they might bring into their home.