Gadgets make great gifts—but as tech gets more and more advanced, privacy becomes a real issue. The same technology that makes life more convenient and fun can also make it harder to protect your privacy.
We’ve found the best high-tech gifts for everyone on your shopping list. And because security is our top concern, we’ve included info about the privacy threats of each item. Find out if the tech you’re considering has a camera, microphone, location tracking, privacy settings, or the ability to record data.
Then you can decide if you’re comfortable purchasing an item with those kinds of capabilities.
You’ve probably got a smartphone in your pocket, so you’re already carrying a camera, mic, and location tracker that records all sorts of data about your daily activities.
If you’re okay with a smartphone, you’re probably okay using all the other shiny gadgets out there, but it is good to know what all those devices are capable of so you can make smart choices about your privacy.
Budget: $50 and under
1. Anker PowerCore mini Portable Charger
Do you have a friend who uses their phone all day, every day whether they’re snapchatting, navigating, or listening to music? Give them a portable power charger that’s compact enough to fit in a pocket. They’ll probably still never love you as much as they love their phone, but you’ll earn a few brownie points.
2. Roku Express
Roku Express is inexpensive and easy to use with almost any TV. It makes it simple to consolidate all your streaming services whether you use Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, HBO, Vudu, Showtime, or all of them—plus, Roku recently added its own channel with a pretty solid lineup of movies and a few TV shows.
3. Tile Slim and Tile Sport
Most of us carry small but extremely expensive devices with us everywhere we go. Tile makes it easier to keep track of your possessions. Tile Slim is small enough to slide into a wallet or pocket. It can also be attached to phones, laptops, and tablets. This little Bluetooth tracker can be paired with an app so you can see where your item was last. You can also use it to make your phone ring so you can find it in your couch cushions. Tile Sport works the same way, but it’s easy to slip through a keyring so you can attach it to your keys, backpack, or camera strap.
5. YI 2 Home Camera
This inexpensive little home security camera is a great option for the friend who’s often away from home. It comes with two-way audio, night vision, and motion detection. It lets you check in and make sure everything is right at home even if you’re not around.
6. Philips Wake-up Light
Waking up early is a struggle for most of us, but it gets even harder when your alarm goes off before the sun comes up. This wake-up light makes getting up a little easier—you set the alarm, and a half an hour before it goes off, the light will slowly get brighter, helping your body wake up naturally. There’s no shame in buying this for yourself, but it also makes a great gift for a friend who hates mornings.
7. Philips Hue Smart Bulbs
Smart lightbulbs might not be necessary, but they sure are cool. You can control lights from a smartphone or pair them with Amazon Alexa or Google Home to control them with your voice. The Philips Hue bulbs are a great gift because they work on their own, but they’re also compatible with lots of other products so you don’t have to worry about whether or not your friend will be able to use them.
8. Vimtag Fujikam
This little camera is similar to the YI 2 camera earlier on the list, but it is a bit more capable. It still has motion detection, two-way audio, and night vision, but it also has pan/tilt controls that make it easier to change your view. It’s a great option for parents who want to let their kids play independently without leaving them completely unsupervised.
10. Amazon Fire HD 8
Amazon’s Fire HD 8 tablet is dramatically less expensive than tablets from Apple, Samsung, or Lenovo, but it can still handle all the basics. It’s great for watching TV shows, checking social media, playing games, and reading books. It’s a good option for someone who’ll mostly use it for casual, portable entertainment.
11. Amazon Echo
Amazon Echo is an attractive little speaker that lets you get things done even when your hands are full. You can ask Alexa to play music, make phone calls, or check your calendar. Or you can connect it to other smart home devices and control lights, thermostats, doors, and more, hands-free.
12. iBaby Monitor M6S
This baby monitor makes it easy to keep an eye on infants day and night, but it comes with more features than the baby monitor your parents probably used when you were little. It has a 360-degree viewing angle, HD video, night vision, and two-way audio. It also lets you play music or voice recordings to help babies stay calm.
13. Nucleus Anywhere Intercom
This clever intercom works with Amazon Alexa and can be used to make video calls, play music, or control a smart home. It’s a great option for families who have lots going on—and it’s a particularly good option for people who don’t think their kids are ready for cellphones. With the Nucleus, kids can still make calls if they need something, but you don’t have to give them something with all the power and potential dangers of a cellphone.
14. Kindle Paperwhite
Do you have a friend who’s always in the middle of a new book? Make it easy for them to read wherever they go—get them a Kindle. We like the Paperwhite because it has a built-in light and higher resolution than the base model—features that will matter to avid readers. You could always spend more on the shiny new Kindle Oasis, but the Paperwhite has all the features we really care about, and it’s at least $100 less than the Oasis.
15. Google Home
If you’ve got a friend with a healthy sense of curiosity, they’ll love the Google Home. They can ask questions all day long—or use it to play music, change the temperature, and turn on lights.
16. August Smart Lock
This smart lock is simple, easy to install, and a little more affordable than some of the fancier locks on the market. Your friend can use it to open their door with a smartphone or they can give you a temporary code so you can check on their house while they’re away.
17. Samsung SmartThings Home Monitoring Kit
This monitoring kit comes with multipurpose sensors for doors and windows and motion sensors for other areas of the home. Plus, it works with lots of third-party smart home devices, so it can be used to control lights, thermostats, and other appliances throughout the home. We all know it’s a bad idea to give someone a present that will force them to spend more money, which is why you probably shouldn’t get your friend a home security system that requires a monthly subscription. A monitoring kit from Samsung is a fantastic compromise. You’ll help them protect their brand new home without pushing them to sign up for something they can’t afford.
20. Pawbo Pet Camera
This feature-loaded little pet camera includes live video, two-way audio, a treat dispenser, and a laser game. Get this for your friend who misses their cat when they’ve got a long day at work, or get this for your own furry best friend and watch your cat chase lasers during your lunch break.
SkyBell works great as a standalone video doorbell, but it can also be paired with existing home security systems. If your friends already have home security through Frontpoint, Link Interactive, or LiveWatch, a video doorbell would make a great addition to their security system.
23. Nest Indoor Camera
Home security systems are usually geared toward homeowners, but renters care about security too. If your friend could use something extremely simple and portable, a Nest Cam is a great option. It’s easy to install and it comes with motion detection, night vision, and two-way audio. And if your friend moves into a larger or more permanent home in the future, they can always add more cameras to the system down the road.
24. Nest Outdoor Security Camera
Getting an outdoor camera is one of the best and simplest ways to improve home security. If your friend already has Nest’s thermostat, smoke detector, or indoor camera, help them complete the set with this easy-to-install outdoor camera. It comes with motion detection, night vision, and two-way audio. They’ll have to get a monthly subscription to access all the features, but if they’re already on the Nest train, they might have that subscription anyway.
25. Amazon Echo Show
Amazon’s other Alexa-enabled devices are pretty capable, but sometimes audio just isn’t enough. The Echo Show can do all the same things the cheaper Echo devices can, but it comes with a screen. This is perfect for someone who wants to watch a cooking video while they try out a new recipe or check out a video tutorial while they’re fixing their faucet.
26. Ring Video Doorbell Pro
Do you have a friend who loves ordering things online? Online shopping can be fun, but if someone isn’t around to receive all those packages, it can be a little nerve-wracking to leave them unattended on the front porch. The Ring video doorbell makes it easy to keep an eye on the front door.
27. Nest Learning Thermostat
28. Torch Router
Like the Luma mentioned above, this router comes with sophisticated parental controls that help filter out unsafe content. However, it has a few extra features that the Luma doesn’t offer. It makes it easy for parents to manage the amount of time kids spend online, and it offers reporting to see what your kids are looking at and about how much screen time they’re getting.
29. Furbo Pet Camera
Get this for your own dog or for your sister who just adopted a new best friend. It comes with a high-res camera, a wide-angle lens, night vision, two-way audio, and a barking alert. Plus, it lets you toss your dog’s treats so he’ll get a little bit of interactive play even when you’re gone.
33. Garmin Fenix
34. Playstation 4 Pro
Get the PS4 Pro for yourself or a friend and enjoy state-of-the-art graphics that older consoles simply can’t match. And since the PS4 is such a popular console, there are lots of gorgeous games that will make the most of the console capabilities whether you’re into Uncharted, Horizon: Zero Dawn, or Rise of the Tomb Raider.
35. Xbox One X
What cool tech is on your shopping list this holiday season? Let us know in the comments below!