The weather outside is turning frightful, and that means it’s time for the Mozilla Foundation to scare the crap out of you with its annual “Privacy Not Included” buyer’s guide. Each year, the Mozilla Foundation judges a handful of gadgets based on their privacy chops, giving shoppers an easy way to judge whether a gift will divulge mountains of personal information about the user. The companies’ privacy policies and past scandals weigh heavily on the list, which is why you’ll see Facebook and Amazon getting dinged in this year’s roundup. Mozilla isn’t able to analyze every product out there, but it usually gets most of the big ones.
Mozilla puts the devices on a scale from “not creepy” to “a little creepy” to “somewhat creepy” to “very creepy.” The worst products get saved for the “super creepy” category, which means a privacy-oriented person will likely be at least a little creeped out when the gadget is on. This year, 36 products reviewed by Mozilla’s non-profit wing utterly failed to meet its standards for privacy—while some you might expect to get low marks managed to clear the not-creepy bar.
Of the more than 130 products Mozilla researchers evaluated, most Amazon and Facebook gadgets fall into the “super creepy” category, with Facebook’s Portal and Oculus Quest 2 VR headset, Amazon’s Echo Show and Echo Dot smart devices, Amazon Halo fitness tracker, as well as Amazon-owned Ring’s security cams and doorbells sitting among the worst on the list. Of the Amazon products Mozilla included, only the Kindle and Echo Buds were found to meet acceptable privacy standards. Mozilla recommends people buy exactly zero Facebook devices because, well, it’s Facebook.
Google, a company you might equate with gross privacy violations, fared better than its Big Tech brethren. The Google Nest Mini, Nest Audio, Nest thermostat, Nest security cams, and Nest Protect smoke detector all landed in the “very creepy” category—not quite as bad as Facebook and most Amazon products. The Google Pixel Buds, meanwhile, only received the “somewhat creepy” label. Mozilla admits that Google “does collect a ton of data on you,” but because it makes it possible to limit that collection through its settings, the company “seems to do a better job than some of the other Big Tech companies when it comes to privacy.”
Apple—a company that has made privacy central to its marketing—also emerges unscathed, with the Apple Watch 6, AirPods and AirPods Pro, Apple TV 4K, and even the Homepod all landing in the “a little creepy” category, the least concerning.
The Nintendo Switch, Sony’s PS5, and Microsoft’s Xbox Series X and S are all no biggie as far as privacy goes too, according to Mozilla’s list. On the flip side, Roku’s home entertainment gadgets were found to do rather bad on the privacy front. Given Roku devices are ad factories this isn’t surprising.
Products from these mega brands only make up a fraction of the gadgets Mozilla singled out this holiday season. Much of the list is made up of smart home gadgets, like the Withings smart scales (good) or the Atomi smart coffee maker (bad). My main takeaway? Beware most internet-connected pet gadgets and expensive smart gym equipment.
You can view the full list here, where you can also vote on how creepy you think each product is. And we’ve rounded up the worst of the lot below for quick perusing. Here are the products Mozilla says to avoid during your gift buying this year:
- Nvidia Shield TV
- Dyson Pure Cool
- Roku streaming stick
- Roku Streambar and Soundbar
- Levoit smart air purifiers
- Livescribe smart pens
- Hamilton Beach smart coffee maker
- Kobo ereaders
- Huawei Honor Band 5 fitness tracker
- Blueair wifi-connected air purifiers
- Schlage Sense smart deadbolt
- Schlange Encode smart deadbolt
- Wickedbone interactive gaming toy for dogs
- Artie 3000 coding robot
- Huawei Smart Watch ES
- SpotOn Fence dog GPS tracker
- Xiaomi Mi Band 5
- Xiaomi Amazfit Band 5
- Conway Airmega 300S and 400S air purifiers
- Greater Goods wifi smart body scale
- Ring video doorbell
- Ring security cams
- Ubtech Jimu robot kits
- Atomi smart coffee maker
- DJI Mavic Mini
- Dogness iPet robot
- Simplisafe security cams
- KidKraft Alexa 2-in-1 Kitchen and Market
- Amazon Halo fitness tracker
- ikuddle Auto-Pack litter box
- Oculus Quest 2 VP headset
- Facebook Portal
- Moleskine Smart Writing set
Update 11/26/2020, 9:52 a.m.: This post has been updated to remove products by NordicTrack, which Mozilla removed from its “Privacy Not Included” list.