“Smart” technologies are becoming ubiquitous in our lives. From smartphones and smart TVs to smart cars and smart watches, connected devices are constantly watching, feeling and listening. Data from these smart devices is generated even as we sleep.
As our connected lives evolve, we start asking tougher questions about how that data is managed. If we truly wish to have fully enhanced connected experiences, do we care that the data is shipped off to third party companies for processing, analytics and re-packaging for enriched consumption? Initially no, as cloud processing becomes a practical method of expanding a connected device’s capabilities beyond its non-connected design. But again, what exactly are these companies doing with the data?
We appreciate Samsung for telling us that our opinions of Kanye West is on a cloud server somewhere, however harmless that is. And in all fairness, many other smart devices incorporate voice prompting and cloud computing to enable their connected features and services.
While driving, connected telematics systems not only transmit our location, but on-board sensors monitor a wide range of in-car behaviors of the vehicle’s occupants. Voice control and biometrics have the potential for reducing driver distraction and enabling access to connected services. Yet they also have the potential for generating data for purposes that have nothing to do with operating the vehicle.
As a practical matter, the technology can monitor our conversations and behaviors, store the data, perform analytics and filter for keywords and certain actions. Privileged conversations that are legally protected, such as those covering matters pertaining to health, finance and liability, could be subject to scrutiny under some scenarios.
How do we know whether this information is being shared with law enforcement or government authorities? We recently discovered that, for the last six years and in secret, the Justice Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) have been building a massive database to track real-time movement of vehicles in the United States. This new stage of vehicle surveillance is causing concern enough; these additional intrusions pretty much erase all expectation of privacy no matter where you are.
The voluntary privacy protection principles laid out last November by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of Global Automakers called for automakers to collect information “only as needed for legitimate business purposes.” We need to continue our work with industry and cybersecurity experts to establish clear rules of the road that will protect consumers from the weaponized potential of technology.