My Privacy Online: Championing Trust in the Era of IoT Thumbnail
Privacy 28 January 2019

My Privacy Online: Championing Trust in the Era of IoT

By Katie JordanFormer Director, Public Policy and Technology

Data Privacy Day is a little like celebrating the anniversary of your first date.

They are both a yearly occasion to reflect on the most important relationships in our life, the former with those who know the most about us, the latter with our significant other.

It’s also a reminder that relationships are built on trust – and how fragile that trust can be.

Privacy online relies on trust at its core. But as we become more reliant on connected devices and virtual assistants to handle our most intimate health, banking, and private information, we’re putting our trust into shaky hands.

Honesty is the foundation of trust and it’s just as important in our relationships with loved ones as those with data brokers. It’s crucial for data brokers to be honest with users about who, when, and how people have access to their personal data, especially as we transition into smarter homes and cities.

Let’s face it: there’s a huge market for the information we share online. Both U.S. and Canadian Internet companies are increasingly trying to collect our personal data – whether we know it or not.

It’s clear we want more control over our privacy, but each year baby monitors, drones, and countless other connected objects are hitting the shelves with insecurities. (And if it comes as a surprise that a baby monitor could put your bank account at risk, you should really check out this great video that lays it out in under two minutes.)

As consumers, we know most people don’t read terms and conditions before giving consent to sharing private information. The documents are too long, too confusing, and too in the way of the content we want to access. But we can’t continue to live in ignorant bliss.

So what can we do to better protect ourselves online? For starters, check out our tips on how to connect smart.

But privacy online is a social responsibility. It isn’t just up to consumers alone – the people who have access to our most intimate data have to start taking it more seriously.

It’s not good enough for companies to excuse bad privacy practices on the grounds of “consent” to rules most people don’t understand, or have a meaningful opportunity to choose or refuse.

What are lawmakers doing about it?

In the United States, the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal was a major lynchpin that sparked the California Consumer Protection Act of 2018 passed last June.

Given California’s lead, the US will likely propose a federal comprehensive privacy law this year to make sure consumers everywhere are protected, not just those in the Golden State.

Things are also shaking up in Canada, where policymakers are setting an international example in how to develop bottom-up security policies.

The Internet Society is in the final stages of a successful multistakeholder process it helped facilitate in 2018 at the Government of Canada’s request for recommendations on how to improve IoT security in Canada. The project is so successful that it’s already being replicated as a model in Senegal and France.

While we can expect federal legislation to come down the pipes in both the U.S. and Canada, there’s an obligation on companies to proactively step up their practices. As I’ve said before, real privacy protection for consumers depends on all stakeholders – consumers, governments, companies – all making different, better choices.

If policymakers and business leaders want a head start on creating healthy privacy policies, they should follow these nine principles as a privacy code of conduct.

Data Privacy Day may only come once a year, but it’s up to all of us to make sure it’s a daily priority for the people we trust to manage our personal information online.

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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