These Are the Creepiest Gadgets of 2020, According to Mozilla

Illustration for article titled These Are the Creepiest Gadgets of 2020, According to Mozilla
Screenshot: Gizmodo/Mozilla

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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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  1. Nvidia Shield TV
  2. Dyson Pure Cool
  3. Roku streaming stick
  4. Roku Streambar and Soundbar
  5. Levoit smart air purifiers
  6. Livescribe smart pens
  7. Hamilton Beach smart coffee maker
  8. Kobo ereaders
  9. Huawei Honor Band 5 fitness tracker
  10. Blueair wifi-connected air purifiers
  11. Schlage Sense smart deadbolt
  12. Schlange Encode smart deadbolt
  13. Wickedbone interactive gaming toy for dogs
  14. Tonal
  15. Artie 3000 coding robot
  16. Huawei Smart Watch ES
  17. SpotOn Fence dog GPS tracker
  18. Xiaomi Mi Band 5
  19. Xiaomi Amazfit Band 5
  20. Conway Airmega 300S and 400S air purifiers
  21. Greater Goods wifi smart body scale
  22. Ring video doorbell
  23. Ring security cams
  24. Ubtech Jimu robot kits
  25. Atomi smart coffee maker
  26. DJI Mavic Mini
  27. Dogness iPet robot
  28. Simplisafe security cams
  29. KidKraft Alexa 2-in-1 Kitchen and Market
  30. Amazon Halo fitness tracker
  31. ikuddle Auto-Pack litter box
  32. Oculus Quest 2 VP headset
  33. Facebook Portal
  34. 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.

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Deputy Editor, Gizmodo

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DISCUSSION

CaptainObvious7
CaptainObvious7

This shit is very misleading.

For instance, if an app needs to talk to toy robot via BLE it needs location permission on Android. And idiots claim then “it tracks your location”.

Or when it needs microphone and camera access. It needs it to interact with robot and people, so without it is much less fun product.

This is a very lazy article, they just looked at superficial features and list of permissions and assumed the worst. None of these products were actually analyzed by professionals for security or privacy. Pure fear mongering. But I assume if the device maker pays these people for “in depth test” they will gladly clear it and deem it not creepy anymore.