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You don't know what you don't know
- Does IoT serve us or take from us?
a little over a year ago, I barely knew what IoT meant. As I started
working at Nube iO, a smart building tech startup, I began to learn
more about this buzzword and the opportunities it has created for the
building automation industry. However, among the benefits, a growing
awareness of this powerful, virtual world made me question the
consequences for society it claims to serve.
a background in marketing, I am well aware of existing privacy concerns
among internet users, which are warranted given unauthorised breaches
of hundreds of millions of users' data
in 2018 alone. Cookies, virtual profiles, data mining and data
brokering are just some of the legal activities that have developed
over the last two decades that give companies the ability to access AND
SHARE sensitive, personal data. This isn’t black market stuff either;
legitimate personal data exchanges now retails at $200 billion annually.
we enter the fourth industrial revolution, we must consider the
repercussions of connecting everything from fridges, watches, pillows,
transport and buildings. Where does this data go? Who can use it? What
does this mean for you if corporate giants know your every move,
interest and intention?
In reality, many consumers are not aware of what they don’t know about data privacy and how IoT will exacerbate this issue.
What is IoT?
stands for the ‘internet of things,’ which represents physical and
virtual networks of masses of objects and devices that freely collect
and exchange data. The introduction of IoT enabled the introduction of
wireless, internet connected sensors, connected assets and by
extension, connected buildings and cities. IoT has also helped
revolutionise technology in other industries such as healthcare,
agriculture and transport. Everyday consumers use IoT as well, through
wearables, social networks and personal devices.
IoT & personal data
IoT has been marketed
through the media as a revolutionary digital transformation and a key
contributor to the fourth industrial revolution (or Industry 4.0) that
will serve consumers and businesses with data-driven insights. Whilst
this may be true for the development of many technologies, research shows Industry 4.0 WILL expose the most personal data of all time. Is this trade-off fair?
Have a think. Smartwatches track your heart rate, exercise patterns, sleep and other health data. Your phone
most likely holds all personal conversations, photos, keychain saved
passwords, access to banking information and your location. Instagram
and Facebook collect interests, engagement patterns, lifestyle factors
and also have access to your camera and microphone. Websites use
cookies to track your online activity. Google and apps keep data on
your search history, travel preferences, shopping history, other apps
you use and YouTube history to generate an advertisement profile
of you. Now that microelectronic sensors are cheap and can be
integrated into everyday objects, we are looking at smart fridges,
smart pillows, smart toasters, smart everything.
shows users underestimate the authorisation given to 3rd parties to
access their data. What’s scary is the prevalence of data selling and
unauthorised data breaches, which I touched on earlier. The most recent
data dispute in the media
this week detailed the class action lawsuit against Apple for selling
18 million iTunes customers’ listening data, including full names, home
addresses, genres purchased and more.
Data is valuable. It’s no
wonder this movement has even been dubbed ‘total tech,’
short for totalitarian technology, after reports of predictive policing
in the US and even more extreme behaviour monitoring in China.
Key effects IoT will have on privacy
I’ve mentioned data selling is a $200 billion industry. So what will
happen to if companies cannot sell data? Its likely consumers will have
to absorb the cost through subscription-based revenue models, or this
lost revenue will be filled with more advertising. Once upon a time, I
would never have given up my social networks or accepted paying for
them. But the truth is we already do pay, just in ways, we’re not aware
Surveillance: Connecting everything means growth in the online world and decline in the offline world. With this comes the diminishing of private spaces. This makes it easier to find and track people. Middelton
(2018) explains this creates ‘glass houses’ where smart producers can
essentially see everything, and consumers continue to invite this
technology in. This creates a surveillance culture that many have
Greater numbers of IoT devices opens more opportunities for hackers and
privacy breaches. Read about the major security breaches of 2018 here.
Changes necessary for the future of digital privacy
Greater transparency on how data is used: This
research shows that many consumers are unaware of how their data is
used and shared, despite signing terms and conditions. Companies being
transparent with how they handle private data will help to restore
trust in big brands.
Shorter terms and conditions:
Who here can say they’ve read the T&Cs for every app, device and
service they have purchased? The harsh reality is that through these
terms, we give companies permission to collect, use and share our
personal data. But do we really have a choice? If you say no to these
terms, you don’t get the service. Intentionally long, boring,
complicated T&Cs in the capitalised text needs to stop. Read more
about the psychology of terms and conditions here, or watch the netflix film “Terms and Conditions May Apply.”
considering the rate at which technology is developing, it’s almost
impossible for legal institutions to stay in front. Moreover, changing
laws is a lengthy process. Greater industry awareness and regulation is
essential to ensure the changes IoT brings enhance human quality of
life, not detract from it. Over the last two years in Australia,
consumers have demanded change in financial, construction and aged care
industries due to malpractice. These are all services we need and use,
but over time, change is essential to protect the rights of the
consumer. The same is required for IoT, a revolution that will, in some
capacity, affect everyone.
Implications for IoT developers and solutions
not a developer, so I won’t speak extensively on this. But, this group
plays a large role in the direction IoT moves in coming years. Policies
must be implemented and supported to guide developers and companies
involved in the IoT space. The GDPR is already active in providing reference frameworks in Europe, let’s encourage more of this across other continents.
What can you do?
reading all this makes you want to go off the grid, you’re not alone.
So what can you do about it? Make some noise! These companies were
built to serve consumers, not take from them. Right?
with assessing your own IoT network - decide what you really need and
review your privacy settings. Raise awareness by writing a blog or post
on social media. Talk to your friends, family and colleagues about this
and employees at IoT institutions must also be involved. If this is
you, encourage ethical IoT developments and data use practices in your
Challenge MNEs on twitter to explain their practices and what they’re doing to protect you, their customers. Write to your local member, influencer or newspaper and voice your concerns. Like any global issue, if everyone did just a little, the problem would look very different.
About the Author
is the Marketing Manager for Nube iO, a smart building automation
company that has developed the first end-to-end & low-cost solution
for large portfolios of small buildings. The solution enables facility
managers to remotely monitor and control assets, reduce building costs
and improve comfort conditions.
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