By: Hanako Kawasaki

The modern world has shifted towards using electronic devices by giving individuals the ability to communicate and exchange information instantaneously with one another over cyberspace. This phenomenon is known as the Internet of Things (IoT). The power of IoT in our daily lives is massive, with the accessible network constantly expanding. From the existence of smart homes, to the more widely known Amazon Alexa, IoT has changed how most consumers go about with their daily lives and interact with devices. However, are we giving away too much of our privacy through the use of IoT? Are we all aware of what kind of data we are aimlessly giving away?

To enter a smart home, you may have to scan your fingerprint or use an eye tracking system. To seamlessly purchase something online from different devices, you only have to input your credit card details on a single device. To run a hospital more efficiently, doctors may use IoT to transfer data from medical devices to databases. Now, instead of going to a physician or hospital for health reports, people use wearables such as the Apple Watch of fitBit to track their well beings. Companies now not only know our basic identities, but may also know more intimate details than our doctors.  Not many consumers actually read the “terms and conditions” of the products they buy, meaning they’re not aware of what they are actually giving up in terms of data and privacy. In the technology market nowadays, it is difficult to buy a device that does not track us. As consumers, we may be exposed to the façade of technology; although it advances our lives in some ways, technology has provided companies with additional ways to monitor our consumer patterns and exploit the details that make us unique. In a more pessimistic perspective, companies have not proven that they have the our best interest in mind. For example, Facebook’s scandal with Cambridge Analytica highlights how companies may not be as transparent with how they handle our data online. Fortunately, this event prompted discussions and increasing regulations on data privacy.

Companies are not the only external threat towards our personal data. With so many points of entry being created through the connectivity of our devices, we are exposed to more hackers and cybersecurity threats. There are more channels for hackers to enter and steal our personal information. An example of this was how researchers found out they could identify which TV show a household was watching through smart meters (Business Insider, 2020). The more we expose ourselves to technology, the more vulnerable we are to digital threats.

Although I cannot deny the massive impact IoT has on our living habits and on the advancement of technology, I remain skeptical on the lack of safety net when it comes to our privacy and who our data is exposed to. Especially considering, how not all the products out on the market are regulated by larger companies such as Google, Amazon and Apple – can we trust the security of the technology coming from smaller companies? IoT also uses Blockchain technology, which has only started to become a focus in the tech industry, which brings into question whether there are enough regulations in place for this new technology yet.

For the audience: what are your thoughts of IoT? Do you think our data is safe with all these devices monitoring us so closely? Who do we make ourselves vulnerable to with all these channels of access we have created?

Additional Readings:

https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2019/01/apples-hypocritical-defense-data-privacy/581680/

https://www.businessinsider.com/iot-security-privacy

https://www.forbes.com/sites/amadoudiallo/2014/07/09/the-not-so-hidden-costs-of-an-internet-of-things/#7d6d53eb3df6

http://www.hk-lawyer.org/content/how-internet-things-may-expose-your-privacy

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