With the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) having recently met to discuss the regulation on what has been popularized as “The Internet of Things,” new regulation may be on its way to better control the data that more and more of our everyday devices are generating.
Two points of view come to a head in the debate regarding regulating our connected devices. The first being, The Internet of Things means that companies are not only accessing, but also collecting data about consumers’ personal life, home, communication, and whereabouts without clear business models and intentions on how the data will be used in the future.
Besides the obvious possibility that this data will be sold to marketers and companies with an interest in understanding their customers with a deeper intimacy, there is also a real security threat. If all of our devices are now connected to the Internet, it gives the increasingly sophisticated hackers even more personal avenues to bring their assault. We started to get a small picture of the holes that having multiple connected devices create from a security standpoint during the epic hacking attack on tech writer, Mat Honan last year.
The counter-argument to increased regulation is that we are in a pioneering phase – much like the early days of the Internet – and that regulation at this stage will stifle innovation. In the early days of the Internet, people were hesitant to share so much as their real name online for fear of being tracked down and harassed. It is clear that those fears were unfounded and that we have actually come to benefit a great deal from sharing our personal information online – people can stay connected over long distances for longer periods of time, everything you need to know about anything and anyone are a few clicks away, and as a result, we are learning and innovating at break-neck paces. We have come a long way from that early fear and trepidation around the Internet, and there is a chance the Internet of Things is going through the same growing pains.
As much as Silicon Valley distastes regulation, especially around the Internet, my gut reaction is that our devices are not ready for the onset of personal data that they will be collecting and, ultimately, sharing. Before creating more hooks between our real, physical-world life and the Internet, we must adopt devices, platforms, and systems that will store your data in a secure way that will not allow access without being categorically sure the person on the other end is you. Biometrics is a great potential solution (hats off to Apple for taking the first step in making our devices 21st Century-proof). But… until the technology is ready to keep us protected, I don’t necessarily want data recorded of everything I’m doing at home, thanks.