These days it seems every gadget, device, and tool that we own has Internet capabilities. From smartphones to smartwatches, no matter what we interact with now, there is an Internet interface. This technology has revolutionised the way that we connect to the world around us, but with a flood of new Internet gadgets that go beyond phones and computers, the world has had to catch up to meet growing concerns.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is simply defined as these things that are Internet ready, but not devices such as phones or computers. They are the other ‘things’ that we are increasingly able to hook up to ‘the cloud’, and the Internet in general. More and more things have a Facebook login, Internet on demand, apps, and more. These technologies have enriched many everyday items, but they can also have some possible consequences.
The biggest concern with the IoT is what it means for privacy. It can be an attractive perk to have a car or watch that can tap into an Internet database and give you instant access to the world of music, statistics, maps, movies, etc, but what does that constant window of access leave the consumer vulnerable to?
It is already known that companies or hackers can gain access to sensitive personal information by way of phones and computers. This has caused major manufacturers to be more careful and give options to prevent consumers from being overly exposed. As well, these companies often must answer to major breaches in security when they do occur. Many people have a cautious outlook when handling privacy on computers, and take extra care to protect themselves.
The same is not necessarily true of gadgets, cars, or appliances. The legal concern is that many people are exposing sensitive information through the IoT without the same protections that they have through computer and phone connections. Many IoT devices are not manufactured to the same quality, and leave people vulnerable to revealing personal information through everyday items that have turned ‘smart’ like their fridge or washing machine.
For now, it is hard to track liability or even enforce efforts to protect certain aspects of a person’s privacy while using certain devices. For instance, a person’s location or their shopping patterns. Generally this information is mined for advertising purposes, but it is a slippery slope that often leads to true harm done to the consumer, such as identity theft, and more.
There are some efforts to require companies to make their networks more secure and take extended measures to protect consumers, but it is loosely enforced, and many fear that companies will ignore the need to protect consumers.
With the sudden saturation of IoT, there has been a scramble to keep up with the huge gaps to security, and the massive scale of vulnerable consumers. There is a lot to be gained from IoT, from huge advances in healthcare and business, to safer cars and other transportation. It looks like IoT is only becoming more prevalent in our world, but there is still the need for more security and accountability as these new platforms are widely utilised.