IoT Privacy Concerns: Are They Spying on Me?

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IoT Privacy Concerns: Are They Spying on Me?
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May 01, 2018

Concerns have been raised that the Internet of Things, or IoT, is being developed rapidly without appropriate deliberation of the intense security challenges involved and the regulatory changes that might be necessary. IoT devices range from the microwave on your countertop to the jet engine flying over your house. These devices include a variety of software, sensors, electronics, etc. All of these aspects collect, process, transfer and share information and real-time data. This may sound like something from a sci-fi film based on a dystopian future, but the truth is that it’s our present-day reality. We live with these devices every day. More often than not, these devices are so common to us and relied on so heavily that we don’t pay attention to their hidden functionality.

By 2025, analysts predict there will be 20 billion to 75 billion devices connected to the Internet.
 

Check it out: The Past, Present, and Future of The Internet of Things (Infographic)

 

Most of these devices being smartphones and computers. As the Internet expands and we become more connected to it, we also adopt more mobile platforms to ensure we stay connected. The development of our technology has come a long way as well. With devices getter smaller and smarter, prices are lower, and sensors are made more cost efficient to fit said devices thanks to investment and mass production.

It makes sense that our phones, laptops, and tablets are connected to the Internet, but why would you want your refrigerator, TV, car, or other random devices connected to the Internet? Is this going too far just to make a point that it can be done, or does it really help us stay connected and make our lives easier?

The Good

Labeled as the “Next Industrial Revolution”, due to its potential to change the way we work, communicate, and live in the world. Just as life began to look different during the Industrial Revolution, life now is beginning to look a lot different as major industries and a majority of consumers jump on the IoT bandwagon. Agriculture, healthcare, cities, transportation, and resources are affected by IoT devices. Sensors in these devices allow us to get accurate readings of our land, alert us of accidents on the road, remote monitoring patients at home, recording energy use in homes, self-driving cars, microchips in our skin, fridges that reorder food when running low, and wearable tech to track our fitness. IoT devices truly change the game when it comes to advancing these aspects of society and in many ways, do help to better our lives and often make things more affordable by studying our consumption.

 

 Check it out: How It Works: Internet of Things (Video)

 
 

 

The Challenges

While IoT devices intrude on our lives to often make them better, there is still a lot of concerns regarding privacy and security when having these devices in our homes. IoT is well on its way to reaching full potential in the future, but before that happens, there are a few things that need to be addressed. For some, the storage of the data that is collected is a concern as there is often a grey area as to where all of this incomprehensible data is stored and who is able to see it. For others, there may be bigger concerns.

As we may have control over what information is sent and stored when we choose to press the right button. While it’s true that most of the time, we have total control over our devices, the scary reality is that not all IoT devices are fool-proof and some do not stop collecting information. Now, that sounds more like something from a sci-fi film based on a dystopian future, right? I mean, most of us have read Big Brother. Are we being dramatic or realistic?

 

Check it out: Top 5 Infamous Hackers

 

Some of the information collected is not what we want to share with the world. In 2017, a company was taken to court for recording what songs their users were listening to through an app attached to their headphones. While music may not be the most sensitive information you could unintentionally share, this is a security concern with IoT devices nonetheless.

 

A company called Vizio agreed in 2017 to pay US regulators over $2 million after allegedly failing to get the appropriate consent from users to track their TV viewing habits.  

 

The Internet is already vast with cyber attacks and hacking threats which collect information illegally. Most IoT devices are built with their main function as their top priority, such as fitness trackers tracking heart rate, security is an afterthought. When people buy these devices, they often begin using them without reading the guides or resetting any preset password. Hackers prove time and again how simple the job is when people don’t take the necessary precautions to protect their information. Maybe knowing when you hit the gym isn’t the worst thing they could steal. But what about collecting information from your heater to know when it was last turned on, learning when you are home? Hackers can be pretty clever. With the expanding use of IoT in homes, it’s crucial to be just as clever when protecting yourself. No doubt IoT devices are here to stay, but learning how to manage them to ensure security, may still need some work.

 

Check it out: Signs Your Smartphone Has Been Hacked

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