Who gets to talk to your Fridge? | O’Reilly Radar

Smart devices raise thorny questions about what kinds of connections between autonomous systems should and shouldn't be allowed.
Smart devices raise thorny questions about what kinds of connections between autonomous systems should and shouldn’t be allowed.

In-brief: an article on O’Reilly’s Radar site raises important questions about what kinds of connections and data sharing should be allowed on the Internet of Things – and how consumer privacy can be protected.

 There’s an interesting article on O’Reilly’s Radar site that asks the important question about connectivity and the Internet of Things. The thesis: connection isn’t binary – either a device (say a refrigerator) is “connected” and “smart” or unconnected and “dumb.” Rather, its a question with nuance: many devices will benefit from connectivity – but connections to (and from) what?

From the article, by Gilad Rosner:

“The world of dumb, blind objects has many virtues, an essential one being that they tell no tales. Your lamp doesn’t remember when you turned it on or off, your clothes don’t know how you smell, and your non-luxury, non-GPS enabled car doesn’t know where you’ve been. But when they do, who owns that data? If recent history is any guide, it’s not going to be you. It will not be owned; it will be shared by default, and you will have varying degrees of control over it.”

Much of the data sharing that goes on in the Internet of Things will be between autonomous systems, the article notes. And that will challenge what the article calls “traditional system concerns of confidentiality, integrity, and availability.”

“Are users ready to navigate more data relationships? If notice and consent is tricky now, how hard is it to design devices to expose the nature of their monitoring and sharing in meaningful, actionable ways?”

In other words, universal, cross device access and data sharing has huge potential. But part of that is the potential to be a huge pain in the a**, as consumers become deluged – overwhelmed – with decisions about what data they want to go where. Humans being humans, its almost certain that, in making those decisions, they’ll be operating with imperfect knowledge and in the sway of emotions (impatience, desire, excitement) that cloud their judgement.

Rosner’s point? Privacy values and privacy-enhancing technologies must be “made available to everyone involved in making devices smart.” That means a massive knowledge transfer from fields like computer science and law to a wide range of other industries – manufacturing, consumer electronics, durable goods, etc.

Read more via Who should and should not be talking to your fridge? – O’Reilly Radar.

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