Smart Appliances are Getting a Rule Book

As IoT technology becomes more prevalent, privacy protection becomes more important. For those that do not know, IoT devices are things like SmartTVs, smart appliances, and wearable devices like the Fitbit. Because of the potential for data to be misused, the Online Trust Alliance, is suggesting a series of best practice guidelines for the industry in general. These devices are far from secure now, and as time goes on, the chance that these items will be hacked increases greatly.


Ever since the flap earlier in the year over Samsung’s Smart TV having the ability to eavesdrop, there have been concerns raised. Of course, Samsung defends their technology as part of their voice recognition system stating that it only uses the recordings to better it’s recognition of you. It states the info obtained may be shared with a third party, but almost anything qualifies as a third party. The technology has the potential to listen to your words so Samsung can better target ads to you as well. Listening to conversations for voice commands is one thing, targeting users for ads is another.

If I knew that activating voice recognition would cause me to get targeted for more ads, I would simply not activate it. I understand what they are trying to do, but as a consumer, I feel I am hassled enough by my appliances already. IoT may be the wave of the future, but there should still be rules in governing what is acceptable usage. The guidelines also suggest that users should be able to make information anonymous or choose not to share the information.

The guidelines for devices proposed by the Online Trust Alliance include a quick way to update security breaches and basically a code of ethics. Another big problem is what if the device is older and no longer supported? You could have something crazy happen. Garage doors could open, baby monitors could malfunction, or your smart refrigerator could throw ice cubes at you. Clearly, anything you could think of may also be used by others that know how to exploit weaknesses. In the case of the Fitbit, what will stop the health monitoring information from being used for the wrong reasons?

The Online Trust Alliance is taking suggestions and comments about these guidelines until September 14th, 2015. If you want to read more about the alliance or if you want to make comments please go to the Online Trust Alliance website. You can make a difference today and tell the alliance your thoughts.

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