"A PRECAUTIONARY TALE
Not all are as optimistic as Prasad about the future of the IoT. While users may have control over who in the general public sees their information, the bigger concern for consumer privacy expert Katherine Albrecht is the question of who owns the data. She is an executive with StartPage, a search engine that does not collect or share personal information, and StartMail, an encrypted e-mail service.
An article coauthored with IEEE Senior Member Katina Michael, “Connected: To Everyone and Everything,” in the Winter 2013 issue of IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, puts Albrecht’s concern bluntly: “[Consumers] may think we’re in charge of our shopper cards and our mobile apps and our smart fridges—but … let’s not fool ourselves. [The information] is not ours. It belongs to Google, and IBM, and Cisco Systems…and the global Mega-Corp that owns your local supermarket. If you don’t believe us, just try removing ‘your’ data from their databases.”
Michael is the associate dean international of the University of Wollongong Faculty of Engineering and Information Sciences, in Australia, and editor in chief of IEEE Technology and Society Magazine.
To prepare for the interconnected future, businesses and governments are outlining measures to be taken while new policies are developed. The European Union, for example, outlined such measures in its report “IoT Privacy, Data Protection, Information Security,” published in January 2013. One recommendation is to develop privacy-friendly default settings on IoT products and services that would give users more control over what information is shared with others. Furthermore, it suggests that IoT networks give individuals the rights to their own data. In 2012, participants at the Open IoT Assembly—an initiative to envision a future with the IoT—developed an “IoT Bill of Rights” at a two-day conference in London that calls for transparency of IoT processes and the preservation of privacy. It also calls for people to have access to their personal data.
Despite potential risks to privacy, companies are betting their customers will see the advantages that the IoT will bring them, says Colcher. But some groups advocate that consumers have the power to slow down or even stop the advancement of the IoT. Not Colcher. “The inclusion of the IoT all around us is inevitable,” he says. “The only thing to do now is to prepare the best we can.”"