December 15, 2014

Keeping A Lid On Your Data

By Lauris Veips

Data Discretion

As discussed on CloudTweaks not too long ago, invisibility is the one thing that’s very important when bringing the Internet of Things to the kitchen. That is, the process of working a home appliance has to be convenient to the point of invisibility, just like it’s with tap water–it’s simply there when we need it, even if we don’t quite know how.

Then again, in this day and age we take ease of use for granted, because most non-techies wait until a new product has become convenient before going to the store. Furthermore, kitchen appliances are high-involvement purchases, and no one wants anything cumbersome or slow in their kitchen. It just has to work.

That’s why it can be argued that the most important thing for the way people will perceive IoT devices, both in their kitchens and in general, is this: what’ll happen to the data these devices generate? Let’s elaborate a bit. In a few years there will be millions of grown ups that have most of their lives documented on social networks. Millions of them will have been embarrassed by something they shared online, or perhaps something–like overly personal, intrusive ads or personalized spam–will have taught them the value of keeping touchy data to themselves. People are bound only to become more and more data-reticent in time.

This becomes crucially important for the long-term success of the IoT, because the data that will be recorded will become much more important once it’s recorded in our homes, not to mention when it’ll come right off our bodies as it is with wearables. It’s great if the fridge can remind us to get milk, a vending machine can help us stick to our diet, or a prep pad can suggest us something healthy to eat, but privacy issues are bound to spring up once a data-hungry app layer is added upon the digital ecosystem of our homes.

This was the case when people raised privacy concerns with the Nest acquisition by Google. The reason is quite evident: it’s just too close to home. And that’s the case with all of the household IoT devices. Even though benign and beneficial, there’s increased tension to know what exactly happens with the data pulled from the sensors. We wouldn’t want to have to scratch our heads if we find a weight watchers ad in our mailbox a month after we’ve started using our smart fridge.

The solution is simple: more user control over data. Not only should users control what data to share, but with whom to share it. Companies should be very conscientious about this, but in return they might find that their user base is much more cooperative. If inchoate policies like the “New Data Deal” come to fruition, perhaps we’ll see a future that’s clearer in terms of what we’re giving away and what, exactly, we’re getting in return.

By Lauris Veips

Lauris Veips

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