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EU probes privacy issues for the ‘Internet of Things’

The EU has launched a public consultation to look at the issue of how information is gathered and stored by the increasing number of devices that connect to the internet.

The regulator claims that the next technological revolution will see increased communication with and among objects and it is asking users how this “Internet of Things” should be governed.

Want to know what the future looks like if you’re an EU worker running this study? Its list of examples includes: “Accessing information related to our physical environment, through a generalised connectivity of everyday objects. A car may be able to report the status of its various subsystems using communicating embedded sensors for remote diagnosis and maintenance; home information about the status of the doors, shutters, and content of the fridge may be delivered to distant smart phones; personal devices may deliver to a central location the latest status of healthcare information of remotely cared patients; environmental data may be collected and processed globally for real time decision making.”

One of the EU’s biggest fears is that this Internet of Things may increase privacy issues because smart objects may exchange data automatically, potentially without involved humans being aware of it.

“Automated decisions may create a perception of loss of control (or lead to actual loss of control) because one of the main goals of the IoT is to give some autonomy to the objects for automated decisions. Decisions taken by machines or applications based on sensed data might not be transparent,” the consultation document states.

For example, LG recently suggested it was working on a “thinking smartphone” that could automatically set your alarm to go off a little early if it realises the traffic on your route to work is bad that day. 

Perhaps the study will also answer one of life’s greatest questions: who pays for all that automatically delivered milk when your smart fridge crashes and thinks you’re running low every five minutes?  


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