EU WANTS TO STOP YOUR FRIDGE FROM GOSSIPING by Mathias Mølgaard

EU WANTS TO STOP YOUR FRIDGE FROM GOSSIPING

Mathias Mølgaard, September 17, 2014

mahm@itu.dk

 

For way too long, your fridge, your watch and your car has been running with gossip. EU wants to change that and set standards for what information your devices pass on.

Brussels yesterday: EU has agreed on an opinion stating that your different devices should be honest about what information they disclose to others in order to improve data protection of EU citizens.

The Internet of Things (IoT) connects our homes, cars, work environments and physical activities, all with great benefits for citizens in EU who rapidly adopt these new technologies. In the opinion, named article 29, adopted on September 16, it is stated that the rise of numerous interconnected IoT devices threaten protection of user data, described as a fundamental human right.

According to the report from the European Commision, specifically The Protection Working Party, IoT is associated with challenges related to both privacy and security. Many of these are related to the vulnerability of the devices which are often lacking sufficient security because they are not integrated into traditional IT structures. Data losses, digital infection and malware lead to unauthorized access to personal data and in some cases unlawful surveillance. The European Commission suggests that users should remain in complete control over their personal data throughout any product life cycle and encourage organizations to make sure that consent is fully informed, freely given and specific.

In order to help organizations meet these standards, the Protection Working Party has designed a comprehensive set of practical recommendations addressed to the different organizations involved in the development, production and maintenance of IoT devices. This will help them implement privacy and data protection in their products and services and preserve this throughout the product life cycle. In others words, your late-night conversations with the fridge should not be passed on – unless you agree upon it.

Sources: Opinion 8/2014 on the on Recent Developments on the Internet of Things Adopted on 16 September 2014.

mathiashm

The following review intends to summarize the main arguments of the text Ethical Design in the Internet of Things as well as propose three suggestions for improvement.

The text addresses privacy issues in relation to the Internet of Thing (IoT) and the increased collection of data. The authors suggests a framework for improving transparency and control for users in order to protect their personal data.

The authors argue that the lack of scrutiny in the area is not only due to technical reasons or lack of knowledge but is also caused by “[…] misplaced incentives from an economic point of view” (Baldini et al., 2016: 3), i.e. large businesses monetizing on user  data.

The text is divided into two main sections. The first section identifies 11 emerging challenges in relation to IoT and suggests five “processes” that will mitigate these. The second section describes a potential implementation of an Ethical Design framework and is a translation of the challenges and processes from the previous section into concrete technical features of a proposed system. In short, the system relies on a program called SecKit which enable users to monitor and control the data they share, thereby improving transparency and control.

The main point of the paper is well defined and the structure supports the reading of the text as well as their main arguments. My first suggestion for improvement is the need to be more concrete in the choice of words. An example of this is the use of the word “processes” which is used to describe five ways that needs to be addressed in relation to IoT. The authors do not define the word and in this context it seems vague and confusing; what is a process?

Secondly, the authors simplify quite complex topics. An example of this is “Whereas the future is unpredictable by definition” (Baldini et al., 2016: 5) which is a definition that seems quite far fetched and does not provide any value to the phrase nor the text in general. One could have left out the cliché and communicated the point.

The third shortcoming I would like to point out is the length of sentences. I invite the authors to read over their text and ask themselves if sentences could be shortened in order to communicate clearer, more effectively and without the risk of losing the reader’s attention.