The technological advances that have brought about amazingly powerful smartphones and tablets have also given birth to other wonderful Internet of Things (IoT) devices as well. While smartphones are technically part of the IoT, for our purposes here, let’s consider them a gateway. So, here we are with unmatched connectivity, our gateway drug the smartphone, and the increasing propensity to connect all devices with an on/off switch and wifi accessibility. The problem is that there some inherent danger related the Internet of the Things that we should probably talk about, more often.
While it’s amazing to be able to start your Chevy, track your fitness, turn on your automatic sprinkler system, or tell the nifty Nest to bump the air down a few degrees all from your smartphone, with that convenience comes risk.
What is spurring the adoption of the IoT?
So what is it that’s spurred the adoption of the IoT? That’s easy: technology and proliferation of mobile devices. Let’s face it, the internet has come a long way since the internet boom of the mid-1990’s. Much of the world now has access to broadband service and smart devices are ever present in our hands, and they are often primarily how we access the internet. According to a recent Pew Study, “nearly nine-in-ten Americans today are online, up from about half in the early 2000s”.
Source: Pew Research Center
Who is in control?
If you look at the big IoT picture, it is very murky as to who is in control of these IoT devices. The smartphone maker might say it’s the software designers who say it’s someone else. It’s a bit unnerving to think about how many devices are updating around us, where that update information is coming from and where our user data is, in return, going.
How secure are IoT devices?
How secure are IoT devices? Short answer – not very. Did you hear the one about the casino employee who thought a high-tech fish tank was the coolest thing ever – that is until it was hacked and casino data stolen. Oops. I’m sure he or she was thinking “these fish are going to have the best lives ever and our guests are going to love them!” and not giving consideration at all to the fact that an IoT-connected device, even a fish tank, is an open invitation to hackers. All day, every day.
The security of these devices is lacking and it’s often not even taken into consideration by developers of IoT-connected devices and products, which is pretty scary in and of itself. So how many hacks will need to happen and how severe will they need to be until device developers build in more safeguards? Maybe if they start getting sued (and it will happen), there will be a lot more attention paid in the development stages of IoT-connected things to security and protection for both consumer and the business who use them.
What’s happening with the data these devices are collecting?
Another downside to IoT devices is that they collect a lot of data about users and their habits which is of coursed funneled to manufacturers, marketers, advertisers, sales teams, insurance companies, and other third parties, to name just a few, which is a fact that consumers are often oblivious to. Consumers and their data should get some protection via software licensing agreements, but with people spending on average a median of 6 seconds reading the license page, it’s not hard for software makers to drown data concerns in legal jargon. The top TV smart producers have already been exposed for the data they were collecting from their customers, while their TVs were off. I have a Google Home device in my residence, and it bothers me to no end that it’s listening to all the sordid lame happenings in my home, but dammit if I don’t like to yell at it to fact check something for me or set a timer while I’m knee deep in some recipe. So like many, I trade privacy for convenience, without being too concerned about what data is being collected and how it is being used.
The IoT is unquestionably cool, IoT-connected devices are making cities smart, buildings more energy efficient and safer, and making car safer to drive. These devices help consumers sod some pretty awesome things and they can also potentially save a lot of time, money and effort. But there needs to be serious progress as it relates to security. More stringent guidelines and security practices should be put in place to safeguard users and consumers need to educate themselves as to the dangers associated with the devices they’re using.
Don’t think it’s all that big of a deal? Think about IoT enable dolls and other toys that children use or perhaps IoT enable, ahem, personal “toys.” There are a lot of dangers associated with devices being able to listen to users remotely and collect data from devices. Even more dangerous is the ability of cyber criminals to hack into those devices because of weak security and ultimately access other information that unwitting consumer have no idea is vulnerable. As consumers, the onus is really on us to demand better protections, educate ourselves about the risks associated with IoT adoption, and continue to push device makers to be transparent about what data they are collecting, how that is being used, as well as to provide opportunities us to opt out of data collection.
Check out this infographic below for a bird’s eye vie of some of the dangers associated with the adoption of the IoT and keep it in mind as you integrate more of this technology into your life – business or personal.
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Katherine Meyer has toiled in the advertising and marketing space for over 10 years. She's served as an account or digital lead/strategist for brands like MilkPEP, Bic Men's Razors, Heinz Tomato Ketchup, Corona and Dairy Management Inc., to name a few. Katherine assists the V3B team by contributing ad, marketing, and tech industry musings for the V3B blog.