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Fixing the Privacy Concern with the Internet of Things | @ThingsExpo #IoT #M2M #API

As IoT-enabled devices become more mainstream, there are oncerns over customers losing their right to privacy

The growing popularity of IoT has spawned the debate on privacy once again. Last year, Samsung stoked controversy by warning customers that their Smart TV Voice Recognition system was capable of “listening” to personal and sensitive information spoken by customers. Not only this, all of this intercepted information is transmitted over a non-encrypted connection to be stored in a third party server.

Although the company was quick to change its policy wordings and issue clarification, Samsung is hardly the only one. ‘Hello Barbie’, a WiFi connected doll from Mattel intercepts children’s conversations which is then processed over a third party server to analyze the child’s likes and dislikes. Nest Cam, a security camera made by Google-owned Nest Labs, comes with a feature to track “unusual noise” such as those of an intruder - this is made possible by intercepting and recording conversations of the residents.

As IoT-enabled devices become more mainstream, there are real concerns today over customers losing their right to privacy. Imagine a future where everything in your household - right from TVs, refrigerators, washing machines, fans and wardrobes are connected to the Internet. A customer has nowhere to go if they need to avoid eavesdropping.

One of the biggest problems here, according to Naveen Joshi, industry veteran and Director of IoT development company Allerin, is the lack of standards and transparency in the way IoT operates today. In a recent blog post, Joshi points out that an open source, common communications standard among IoT devices will bring about greater cross-functionality as well as make communication more secure and private. When all organizations enabling IT adhere to a common standard, it is possible to create a safe ecosystem that does not pry on the privacy of the customers and still contributes toward a ‘smart’ future.

Joshi’s assertion that common standards will help fix the privacy issues of IoT is not without precedence. Tech industry observers might remember the clash between Adobe Flash and platform makers like Apple. As a software application that enabled rich media content, Flash enjoyed near monopoly in its segment. However, it was heavy, buggy and not open source. This created a massive discord between what the application offered and what platform developers wanted to provide their customers. The emergence of a common HTML5 standard has widely contributed to a uniform viewing experience for users - not only is it easier for developers to build cross-functional applications with HTML5, the emergence of a common standard has also meant security and privacy issues that were a problem with a private player are now made redundant through an open platform.

We are already moving towards that future. Organizations like the Open Interconnect Consortium (OIC) and the AllSeen Alliance are building partnerships with developers to create a standard. However, the existence of multiple standards is as good as having nothing at all. The sooner the different stakeholders in this industry come together to build a common, open source standard for the IOT, the better it is for the customers of what is likely to be the next big thing after the World Wide Web.

More Stories By Harry Trott

Harry Trott is an IT consultant from Perth, WA. He is currently working on a long term project in Bangalore, India. Harry has over 7 years of work experience on cloud and networking based projects. He is also working on a SaaS based startup which is currently in stealth mode.

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