The “Internet of Things” refers to the use of the Internet in everyday physical objects. Here you will find the most important legal questions.
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You may have heard of the Internet of Things (IoT). It’s the new buzzword for new technologies, artificial intelligence and blockchains. But a lot of people are already using IoT. If you have a smart watch, smart fridge, or Alexa at home, they’re all IoT. However, the Internet of Things not only makes our lives easier, it also poses serious legal problems. Here we will discuss what exactly IoT is and what important legal issues it raises.
What is the Internet of Things?
The Internet of Things (IoT) simply refers to devices that are connected to the internet to share and collect data with other devices. Examples of this are a Fitbit that connects to your smartphone to exchange information about your health. Another example is a smart lightbulb that you can turn on and off with your smartphone.
The Internet of Things is expected to dominate the future. Everything from your toaster, car, refrigerator, and fitness machine could be talking to each other and to your phone and computer. You can share data about your calendar, activity levels, mood, diet and location. That way, your devices can make sure you’re not late for your appointments and in good shape. You could foresee what you want or need to make your life a little easier.
On a larger scale, the Internet of Things enables governments to collect data on what people are doing to create intelligent transportation systems. They could make sure our streets are safer through a network of surveillance cameras or sensors that detect suspicious activity.
Organizations can also use IoT to track their manufacturing machines so they can be notified immediately if one of them is malfunctioning. Stores can share data about customer behavior and preferences to improve customer experience and products.
Important legal issues related to the Internet of Things
IoT can certainly bring more convenience and useful knowledge in our life. However, there are aspects that can affect our legal rights.
Some important legal questions include the following:
1. Data protection
With your data, companies can create personalized ads based on your habits. Governments could implement guidelines based on what they learn about the behavior of their citizens. As a more sinister example, companies could sell your data to other companies for whatever purpose they want to use it for. This happened in the data breach scandal that Facebook was involved in. Facebook sold personal information it had collected from users to Cambridge Analytica, which it used for political advertising purposes. With IoT, companies can collect more of your personal information that they can use for purposes that you don’t necessarily agree with.
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In connection with the above, IoT can put your security at risk. If your devices don’t have solid privacy and cybersecurity protections, your devices can be hacked. Unfriendly people could access private information about your movements and biometric data, which could compromise your security. Not only that, but hackers could hack into one device to control another device. There are already many devices that can be remotely controlled using a smartphone, such as lamps and doors. If the IoT capabilities are expanded, the car may even be able to be controlled remotely. Of course, this has serious consequences for a person’s physical safety. Driverless trains and cars have already been criticized for this reason. As the Internet of Things evolves, cybersecurity protections and policies need to be strengthened.
3. Statutory Liability
When something goes wrong and you’re looking for the person responsible, ask the question: who did it? However, with IoT the question won’t be that simple. Let’s say you have a smartphone with an app. With the app you control your smart house, e.g. B. to open doors and windows and turn on the light. One day you notice something on your phone. You return home to find that the television and your jewelry box are missing. A hacker hacked into your phone, broke into your app, and checked your door to enter the house. Whose fault is it for this security breach? The manufacturer of the smartphone? The creator of the app? The designer of your smart home?
The high level of connectivity that IoT enables means that it is difficult to determine who is responsible when something goes wrong, e.g. B. due to a security breach or device malfunction. This can make litigation complex and expensive. As the use of IoT continues to increase in our lives, guidelines need to be developed that address legal liability for IoT.
What is being done about these problems?
There are currently no laws in Australia that specifically address the Internet of Things. The Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) and Telecommunications Act 1997 (Cth) currently address privacy and cybersecurity issues. For example, under the Telecommunications Act, it is a criminal offense for telecommunications service providers to use or disclose certain personal information about a service user. According to the Data Protection Act, collectors of your personal data must disclose how your data is stored and used. Contract and consumer protection laws regulate questions of legal liability for defective devices. However, these laws are out of date and do not take into account the worsening privacy and security issues due to the IoT, as explained above.
Code of Conduct to Secure the Internet of Things
To address these issues, the Australian government recently published a code of conduct to keep the Internet of Things safe for consumers. This is a set of voluntary principles that Internet of Things companies can apply. Some of these principles include:
- No duplicate standard or weak passwords – Passwords should be unique, unpredictable, complex, impossible to guess, and should not be reset to a factory default value that is common to multiple devices.
- Implement a vulnerability disclosure policy – IoT service providers should provide security researchers and users with a public point of contact to report problems
- Keep the software up to date safely
- Make sure personal information is protected – Data should be collected in accordance with data protection law and the privacy settings on a device should be protected by default on privacy
- Ensure software integrity – The software should be checked. If unauthorized changes are found, the device should notify the consumer / administrator
While this Code provides a useful guideline, it is voluntary and may not be strict enough. As the Internet of Things evolves rapidly and becomes more integrated into our lives, the law needs to catch up to better protect our most sensitive information.
As we can already see with the advent of smartphones, Fitbit and Alexa, the Internet of Things is already becoming a common feature of our lives. Many other everyday devices and devices such as vacuum cleaners, refrigerators, coffee makers and cars are likely to incorporate more and more “smart” functions. Because these devices communicate information about our movements and habits with each other, they will make our lives easier and likely healthier. Governments can also use the Internet of Things to make our roads safer or to make transport systems more efficient. However, as the Internet of Things becomes more attuned to our lives, more of our privacy and security will be compromised through hacking or government and corporate use. The hope is that our laws will quickly catch up with these developments to protect our personal lives.