The Internet of Things (IoT) is defined in many different ways, but is generally understood as a collection of ‘things’ – e.g., devices, sensors – that connect, communicate or transmit information with or between each other through the internet.

These ‘things’ communicate with each other without the need for human interaction. The IoT includes products such as medical devices that dispense medication at pre-programmed intervals or when certain biometric conditions exist, self-driving vehicles that communicate with other vehicles and the traffic infrastructure, and seemingly life-like toys that learn about our children and interact with them in realistic ways. Technology research and advisory giant, Gartner, Inc., predicted that more than 4 billion connected consumer sector devices would be in use worldwide by the end of 2016, with that number growing to 13.5 billion by 2020. We have now reached the point where connected devices outnumber human beings.

The reality of the IoT and the growing number of consumer sector devices entering the marketplace each day is that almost every individual, organisation and company has a digital footprint and the amount of data being collected and distributed on a daily basis is only increasing. Along with this exponential growth of data collection and use comes a host of privacy, data protection and cyber security issues about which companies should be aware.

Privacy, data protection and cyber security issues in the world of the IoT

Fitness trackers, mobile GPS devices, mobile phones, tablets, smart cars and smart TVs. Nearly all of our devices are collecting data and talking to each other via the internet. You can control, to a certain extent, the amount of data your devices are collecting and what they are doing with that data. But in order to effectively use many of these devices, you must allow them to collect and communicate what many consider personal data. Such data often includes locational information, financial data, personal health information and even shopping habits. With so much data being transferred, hackers are constantly and consistently working to breach these devices. As such, the potential for a data security breach is high and will continue to grow as new devices join the IoT.

Apr-Jun 2017 issue

Alston & Bird LLP