IoT Offers Opportunity, But We Must Also Advocate for Privacy Thumbnail
Internet Governance 12 November 2018

IoT Offers Opportunity, But We Must Also Advocate for Privacy

Meri Baghdasaryan
By Meri BaghdasaryanGuest Author

Our world is evolving exceedingly fast these days. Within the last few years in what has been coined the fourth industrial revolution we have witnessed evolutionary developments. One of those fascinating advancements concerns the everyday things and devices now connected to the Internet, also known as the Internet of Things (IoT). However, while every invention brings brand new exciting opportunities, it also entails disadvantages and may result in possible adverse consequences, if the disadvantages are not taken notice of.

Certainly IoT first and foremost provides an opportunity for a more comfortable and organized life. People may enjoy the chance to not preoccupy themselves with, for instance, managing their morning routines that may include waking up at a specific time, preparing the breakfast, and so on. Nowadays when your alarm clock can be connected to the thermostat and the latter has the information about the heavy snowfall of the night, the alarm can automatically readjust itself to wake you up an hour earlier than planned so that you manage to get to work on time.

Other examples may include smart scheduling programs or fitness tracking watches. As a runner, I personally am at ease realizing that I do not have to calculate my average pace after every kilometer as my tracking device will do that for me. Similarly, as a lawyer, I may concentrate on my legal cases and do not worry about managing my schedule as my watch, email, and calendar are able to “talk” to each other and harmonize the changes that may occur.

Now imagine that your smart watch is hacked and you are located through your regular running routines that are revealed through the GPS data on the watch. Or your data is stored without your knowledge and consent – moreover, commercialized and sold. That is why it is essential to #GetIoTSmart and to know how to protect your rights while enjoying the advantages of IoT.

In 2016 I was selected as an Internet Society Youth@IGF2016 Fellow and had the privilege to participate in the Internet Governance Forum 2016 in Mexico. This experience enabled me to enlarge my knowledge in the Internet Governance as well as in the human rights implications related to technological developments. Personally placing much importance and value in my privacy, I realized that our privacy and data are one of the most vulnerable human rights aspects in this context. Therefore, I believe it is crucial to advocate for a more profound privacy protection.

Currently tech companies are in a rush of producing a bigger variety of IoT devices. To my mind, this haste may significantly affect the privacy and security of the devices.

Article 8 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights enshrines that everyone has the right to the protection of their personal data, access to data which has been collected concerning them, and the right to have it rectified. Further, with the enactment of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in May, 2018 that also applies to the IoT; both the data collectors and data processors located either in the EU or abroad dealing with EU citizens’ data are bound by privacy rules. The latter entails the approach of privacy by design and by default. In other worlds, it is much stricter than the previous EU directive. Moreover, while the GDPR aims at aligning the data protection laws in EU member states, the ePrivacy Regulation’s (not in force yet) goal is to align the online privacy rules in the member states. Thus, these developments in the European Union are undoubtedly significant steps towards achieving the goal of data protection.

In short, IoT has ample untapped potential. But we must ensure that the proper data protections are in place to make them more secure and protected.

Do you know the risks of what you’re buying? Get IoT smart!

Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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