"If we had computers that knew everything there was to know about things... we would be able to track and count everything." -- Kevin Ashton, "That 'Internet of Things' Thing," RID Journal; July 22, 2009
"A child born today will grow up with no conception of privacy at all. They'll never know what it means to have a private moment." -- Edward Snowden on Britain’s Channel 4; Dec 25, 2013
The new year will see explosive growth in the Internet of Things (IoT). Adding an Internet address to anything and everything on the planet will enable things (or people) to be accessible to and from the cloud always and everywhere.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), "Connected devices can communicate with consumers, transmit data back to companies, and compile data for third parties such as researchers, health care providers, or even other consumers..."
The FTC, part of the Executive Branch of the US Government like the NSA, neglects to mention a very possible dark side to this brave new connected world.
Privacy concerns raised by Edward Snowden's revelation of NSA surveillance pale in comparison to what may be on the horizon. For all the possible benefits of the IoT -- what IBM calls "a smarter planet" -- there is also the chance that we may soon live in a global environment of such total, unrelenting, and unavoidable surveillance that we will envy the residents of Panem, in the setting of The Hunger Games.
The FTC held a workshop on November 19 in Washington that brought together academics, business and industry representatives, and consumer advocacy groups to explore the security and privacy issues in this changing world. The workshop served to inform the FTC about developments in this area.
But that was the first step in the process. The Commission is accepting comments on privacy and security topics until January 10, 2014.
I urge you to weigh in on this before the issue is taken over by those whose parochial interests may not be aligned with the common good. To comment go to this FTC site and scroll down to the area for public comments.
This issue goes far beyond the limited concerns of engineering, business, or sociology. The IoT may change the very nature of human identity in the next 10 or 20 years.
This issue demands comment from anyone with an interest in privacy, security, or self-identity -- it impacts issues of individuality, liberty, and what it means to be a freeborn man or woman.
Besides security concerns, thought should be given to how much energy it will take to monitor everything on the planet. And because increased complexity leads to increased fragility, the likelihood of system crashes increases geometrically.
Again, there is much potential benefit from some aspects of the IoT, and those must be considered well. I urge you to weigh in, and let your thoughts be heard.