The Effect of the Internet of Things on User Privacy: Part 2

The Internet of Things will not kill off privacy as some fear.

If you read part one of this series last week, you’re likely remembering the grave words delivered by tech commentator Chris Merriman regarding the bleak fate of user privacy.  And though he gave a well-rounded argument, this week’s blog will cover the views of Louise Taylor, senior associate at law firm Taylor Wessing and Merriman’s opponent in the orange corner.

“Privacy concerns have been raised about this vision of a connected future, focusing on the lack of transparency about who is processing the personal data and for what purposes. While these concerns are valid and do need to be addressed, IoT will not kill off privacy as some fear.
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In the EU, existing data protection laws are already in place to regulate the processing of personal data in the IoT ecosystem. For example, individuals must be given clear and transparent information about what data is collected about them, how it will be used and by whom. Individuals also have rights to manage their personal data, for example by requesting that inaccurate data is corrected. As the law stands, suppliers of IoT technology must adhere to EU data protection principles and any data processing that is carried out in breach of them will be unlawful.

Accepting the argument that IoT will kill off privacy would mean ignoring existing data protection laws, allowing tech vendors to process data unlawfully without consequence and regulators turning a blind eye to privacy violations. This wouldn't happen.”

When Merriman voiced his concerns about data protection often being relinquished at the hands of the user, Taylor was quick to affirm this point but view it in a different way. “Some people will be prepared to effectively trade their data for the benefit of having a toothbrush that lets them know when it needs replacing, or a fridge that can order milk before they even realise they're running low. But for many people, these perceived benefits don't yet outweigh their privacy concerns. These individuals won't hand over their personal details to the tech vendor, marketers, data analysts and other various parties just so that they don't have to remember to put 'milk' or 'toothbrush' on the shopping list.

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And if people don't have faith in the ability of tech vendors to secure their data from loss, data leakage or inappropriate use, then the Internet of Things could ultimately fail to live up to expectations.”

Karen Lomas, Intel’s own IoT curator and director for strategy and business transformation, had something to add to the conversation as well. “Is it possible for people to own their own data? Instead of companies charging others to have lists or access data, can we imagine a time when we charge or are rewarded - in the same way as loyalty cards do or even with real money - for sharing our information? I would pose that the security solutions are there today in silicon, in hardware and in software. The bigger issue for privacy may be who decides. Who decides what of our data is private and what is available to be bought and sold.”

Regardless of whether you side with the blue corner or the orange corner, the IoT is quickly becoming reality and we’re already witnessing the changing face of user privacy. All we can do now is be prudent with our information and aware of what we give away every time we we click “I Agree.”

For more on the IoT, see why intelligence inside is key.

Have you made your mind up yet? Will it be the blue corner or the orange corner? Comment below or join the conversation on Twitter with the hashtags below:

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