A New Mission

It’s a bit of a long story that I explain more in the introduction to the book I am co-authoring with a friend but a few of us have set off on a mission to alert consumers about the promises and perils of the Internet of Things (IoT). Oddly enough, I have never been very concerned about Internet privacy. For the most part, I was willing to accept some loss of privacy when using the abundant free services on the Internet. Search, email accounts, blogging, video posts, social media. All free and we all knew we were giving up just a little about ourselves each time we used the services. It seemed fair since Google, Facebook, et al made it clear we would see an endless stream of targeted ads if we partook of their “free” services. Not completely free since our privacy has value and we are sacrificing that with these services.

It’s not so fair any longer. The giants of the online world have entered the world of the Internet of Things. Not satisfied with capturing information through Web-based online interactions, these folks are now selling us futuristic devices like the Nest (Google) thermostat, the Amazon Echo and the Oculus (Facebook) Rift. Masquerading as clever assistants to make our homes “smarter” or more entertaining (George Jetson, here we come), they are really stealth devices designed to capture what is happening in the privacy of our homes. Videos, photos, audio, motion, temperature–a steady stream of personal data that can add up to a comprehensive picture of our private lives. Wrong George…it’s Orwell that is coming our way.

Of course, these kindly online services are telling consumers right up front that this data is being collected and will be used to turn them into consumers zombies, right? Wrong. The lack of transparency here is absolutely stunning. “Don’t be evil” may have been Google’s founding mantra but that image should be tossed in the trash. This is evil which takes me to our new mission…trying to raise the alarm that consumers need to beware of these “trojan horses” of the Internet of Things.

Our first step was to create an organization and online venue to be a resource for this mission. The Open IoT Foundation is a California nonprofit with the goal of giving voice to these concerns. We also propose an Internet of Things Bill of Rights for consumers. A couple of us also decided to write a book to highlight the issue. More on this in another post later this week but I have discovered that writing a book is hard work. Enjoyable at times and intellectually challenging but serious work.

So, to use one of my favorite phrases, “my knickers are in a twist” over this stealthy invasion of privacy and serious risk of loss of control over our homes. And I’m not a crazy Internet privacy guy wearing a tin foil cap. I still use the free services on offer but more carefully. I know what I am giving up. What just simply pisses me off is the dishonesty of these companies and their arrogance that they know what is best for us by telling us about the wonders of the Internet of Things while quietly stealing our privacy. Evil buggers.

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