Review date: Nov. 8, 2021
Here's a smart thermostat that can basically do it all—change the temperature, call your friends, play music, control other smart devices, and adapt to your routine. Ecobee's SmartThermostat can also do smart thermostats things like adjust the temperature from your phone, use room sensors to manage hot and cold spots, and save energy with smart algorithms. It has Amazon Alexa built in, a way to control it with a flick of your Apple Watch clad wrist, and occupancy sensors so it knows which rooms are in use and which aren't. Is it possible for a thermostat to be too smart? If so, you can get the cheaper Ecobee3 Lite and make calls from, you know, your phone. It was announced in November, 2021 that a new company, Generac, has plans to buy Ecobee. Stay tuned for what that means for your privacy.
What could happen if something goes wrong?
These smart thermostats know which room you're in and if you ask Alexa a bunch of questions. There's nothing terrible about either of those things, just be aware that your thermostat could potentially know a lot about you. Any voice requests you make of Alexa through your smart thermostat (what a weird statement) will let Amazon know more about you, of course. But hey, Amazon probably knows way too much about you already.
Ecobee reportedly also stood up to Amazon when they demanded they share more user data with them. From The Verge, “...the online retail giant asked Ecobee to share data from its Alexa-enabled smart thermostats, even when the customer wasn’t actively using the voice assistant. Ecobee reportedly refused to have its devices constantly report back to Amazon about the state of the user’s home, including data on which doors were locked or unlocked and the set temperature. The reasoning being that enabling its devices to report this data to Amazon would be a violation of its customer’s trust.” Good ecobee, bad Amazon.
Ecobee does ask users if they would like to donate their anonymized data from their smart thermostat to share with energy scientists to help “design more efficient and sustainable homes.” That seems good on many fronts. Ecobee asks users to donate their data with an opt-in option to help scientists help save the planet. Again, good work ecobee!
Tips to protect yourself
- If you connect to Alexa, delete your historical voice recordings from time to time, by saying “delete what I just said."
Can it snoop on me?
What can be used to sign up?
What data does the company collect?
Name, email, phone number, address
Voice recordings (collected by Amazon)
How does the company use this data?
How can you control your data?
What is the company’s known track record of protecting users’ data?
No known incidents in the last 3 years.
Can this product be used offline?
User-friendly privacy information?
Links to privacy information
Does this product meet our Minimum Security Standards?
All network traffic is encrypted.
A password is required for the web portal and mobile app.
Ecobee runs a bug bounty program, which means that anyone who finds a security issue and discloses it responsibly may get paid.
Is this AI untrustworthy?
What kind of decisions does the AI make about you or for you?
Ecobee smart thermostats have a feature called eco+. It leverages AI to tailor temperature settings, transition to clean energy when available, and optimize cost savings.
Is the company transparent about how the AI works?
Does the user have control over the AI features?
Donate your dataEcobee
Amazon tried to coerce Ecobee into collecting private user data, the WSJ reportsThe Verge
Ecobee’s smart thermostat now supports Siri voice controlEngadget
The Best Smart ThermostatNew York Times
Generator company Generac announces plans to buy EcobeeCNET
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