ADT News

Designing Security and Privacy Into ADT’s Products and Services

April 6, 2022 at 10:00 AM EDT

By: ADT Newsroom Staff

Don Young

Don Young, ADT Executive Vice
President and Chief Operating Officer
(credit: Robert Snow)

At ADT, we believe data is the fuel making smart home security systems safer, smarter and more helpful for our customers. Data will unlock next-generation features such as ambient, or always-on, security, for example, and data already enables the smarts in thermostats that maintain comfortable temperatures while reducing unnecessary energy use when nobody is home.

The ability to offer these types of services requires customers to trust ADT to keep their data private and secure, according to ADT Chief Operating Officer Don Young. That’s why ADT follows the principles of Privacy by Design, which state that privacy must be incorporated into our platforms and technologies.

“We have built and constantly fortify an architecture that gives customers comfort to share data with us and know that their data is protected and being used to provide value to them through automation, preventative detection and enhanced emergency response,” Young said.

Privacy begins in the lab

Data privacy and security begins with the design of hardware products, which are tested and validated at the ADT Engineering Technology Center in Boca Raton, Fla. All devices in ADT’s networked data systems leverage encryption technology, two-way and spread-spectrum communications, Young noted.

To proactively address consumer privacy concerns, lay out industry guiding principles and push the security industry toward greater transparency on consumer privacy, ADT launched the Security Industry Consumer Privacy Initiative in 2019, noted ADT Vice President of Product Engineering Mark Reimer, who joined the group to instill Privacy by Design principles across the smart home security industry.

What’s more, Reimer pushes privacy as part of ADT’s participation in the Connectivity Standards Alliance, which sets standards for how IoT devices and technologies communicate and share data. In relation to privacy, he is working on upholding ADT’s ‘privacy line’ on the types of device data that is made available for sharing depending on a customer’s opt-in. ADT, he noted, is embracing the alliance’s Matter standard, which helps to ensure devices are reliable and secure as well as seamless to use across manufacturers.

Jose Porroa

Jose Porroa at the ADT Engineering Technology Center tests camera systems to
ensure data privacy expectations are met. (credit: Ian Witlen)

“There’re more than 200 companies that are all working together to bring Matter to life so that we’re all speaking the same language,” Reimer said, explaining that when devices use the same language, they can seamlessly share data.

Data sharing is a customer choice

ADT makes sure to confirm each customer’s permission (opt-in) before collecting, transporting or storing their alarm data, Young noted. To help ensure transparency, ADT developed clear communications to help educate customers what data ADT would like to access and when, and the value to the customers for sharing it. “Otherwise, customers will share everything, or they’ll share nothing.”

For example, if customers allow ADT access to their alarm data, ADT can use it to make more informed decisions about the need for a first responder during an alarm event and offer other helpful services. In addition, when customers share data with ADT, they unlock additional personalized services, like alarm verification, said Reimer.

In the coming months, as we move forward with Google and Nest Aware, any alarm data that customers opt-in to share with ADT will be stored securely in Google Cloud Platform where access is gated, authenticated and auditable, according to ADT Chief Monitoring Officer Larry Folsom.

“We think of this system as a lockbox and then we think of doors to that box,” he said. “One door to that box is the customer, one ADT agents and one public safety. The ADT agents and public safety will only have access if the customer specifically gives permission.”

Raya Sevilla

Raya Sevilla, ADT Senior Vice President and
Chief Technology Officer (credit: Robert Snow)

The types of alarm data stored in this lockbox will include video as part of ADT’s next-generation smart home security platform – if customers choose to share their video data with ADT.

In the case of video capture and usage, ADT asks customers for permission to collect data when a camera detects a person and when an alarm is triggered. If the customer opts in to this type of data collection and sharing, ADT can use the data to help verify an alarm event, resulting in a faster, higher priority response from first responders.

Fueling the future

Any alarm data produced by a smart home security device and shared with ADT will remain in the lockbox and will never be sold, noted Raya Sevilla, ADT Chief Technology Officer. Her team is developing an information technology platform to process the alarm data shared with ADT for next-generation services such as ambient, or always on, security.

“Your smoke and carbon monoxide detector are always on. You never have to turn them on and off. Your security system should also always be on. Why do you have to arm and disarm it?” she said. “To get to that space, it is going to be a combination of certain devices in the home as well as data.”

Going forward, Young said, data security and privacy are table stakes for the smart home security industry. Companies that fail to deliver on data privacy and security will be eliminated. Companies that protect data privacy and security, on the other hand, will gain access to customer data in exchange for higher value smart home security services.