The “Internet Of Things”
What Exactly Is the “Internet of Things”? It involves a lot of things — especially when it comes to digital privacy. The Federal Trade Commission uses the term to refer to the web of available devices, such as smartphones and tablets, but also other Internet-enabled devices, like vehicles and household appliances, to interact with each other by using the Internet.
In today’s world, a growing number of devices can “plug you in.” You can get online videos straight from the Internet on many modern televisions. You can get traffic and weather information on a display in your car. Internet-enabled refrigerators can detect that the milk carton is almost empty and notify the user on his smartphone when he passes by a grocery store.
The fact that so much data could be shared by devices in the coming decades obviously has numerous digital privacy and security implications. It is certainly true that many Internet-enabled household appliances are still something that only technophiles are using for now. But if we examine a few products, we see that “high-tech” is becoming more mainstream as a result of wider availability and dropping prices. One example is IP-enabled home automation systems. 10 years ago, it was seen as something only Bill Gates would use. Fast forward to 2013 and solutions that allow someone to control the lights, unlock doors and change the thermostat from a smartphone can be purchased for a few hundred dollars.
Digital Privacy Implications
The goal of the FTC is to put forward policies that would define clear digital privacy rules for household appliances that use the Internet. Consumer groups believe that the proliferation of the “Internet of Things” could allow corporations to have access to an unprecedented amount of data on consumers. This raises concerns about what the data would be used for and who would have access to it. The digital privacy concern would be especially important if Internet-enabled medical devices become used by consumers around the nation.
Not everyone believes that digital privacy regulations should be drafted before Internet-enabled appliances become adopted by consumers. Some commentators believe that excessive regulation on new technologies would limit their progress and could deprive people of access to useful devices. Those who oppose immediate regulation say that while new inventions may carry risks, mistakes such as privacy threats can be corrected as these inventions get perfected.