What Happens When 50 Billion Machines Connect?

That’s one of the big questions privacy advocates, business leaders, and government agencies are asking themselves when strategizing for the future safety of our data as the Internet of Things (IoT) grows. The privacy challenges of today’s connected world can seem daunting – and these challenges will continue to deepen as the IoT expands.

Anyone interested in connected technology or buying smart gadgets knows connected devices are everywhere. Ideas such as the connected car, the connected home (refrigerator, heating and air conditioning, alarm system, etc.), and wearable fitness devices are all concepts that quickly blossomed beyond the tech community and sparked the interest of the general population.

This is exciting for many people but also raises a number of concerns about how consumers’ personal data will be protected.

People Watching Erodes Consumer Trust

Recent news stories about products that have the capabilities to “watch” people erode away consumer trust. But there are ways this trust can be strengthened.

According to a survey conducted on behalf of TrustArc, 79% of consumers are concerned about the idea of personal information being collected by smart devices, and 69% think that they should own any personal data collected using a smart device.

These concerns negatively impact business — only 20% of consumers said they believe the benefits of smart devices outweigh any privacy concerns about their personal information.

Earlier this month, the Internet of Things (IoT) was a hot topic of discussion at the IAPP Global Privacy Summit in Washington, D.C., as Chris Babel (TrustArc), Jules Polonetsky (Future of Privacy Forum), and Justin Brookman (Center for Democracy & Technology) led a panel about defining the standards of IoT.

FTC Recommends Privacy by Design and Default in IoT Products

The FTC has recommended that privacy be “baked in” to IoT products, meaning strong privacy practices should be a given and not a luxury add-on.

At the Consumer Electronics Show this year, FTC Commissioner Edith Ramirez noted three main privacy challenges of IoT:

    • “the ubiquitous data collection of personal information, habits, location and physical condition over time;.”
    • “the unexpected uses of consumer data flowing from ‘smart cars, smart devices, and smart cities,’.”
    • “the heightened security risk of the Internet of Things.”

This presents an opportunity for data privacy professionals to work with the government to create strong privacy standards.

TrustArc CEO Chris Babel was quoted in an article about the privacy and security risks of the smart home, in which he said the IoT “is still very siloed, and it’s not very connected.”

He echoed the statements of FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez, who said companies should build products with privacy and security in mind.