2016 has not been kind to the Internet of Things. Specifically, its data privacy cred.
It seems each day has fallen like an anvil on an exciting idea full of promise and potential, squashing it into a scary pancake of dodgy user agreements and loose data.
And as always the problems stem from high profile data security breaches. Increasingly, consumers are entrusting their data to brands that don’t secure it.
The BBC reported on Wednesday that cybersecurity experts cautioned parents who purchased VTech products following serious breaches and a questionable update to the company’s terms and conditions. The former gave hackers access to photos and chat logs from the devices, the latter placed responsibility for breaches squarely on parents.
Clearly this is a problem, but VTech aren’t alone.
It’s estimated that by 2020, 26 billion pieces of tech will be connected to the internet, generating an ever increasing cloud of data.
The problem right now is that manufacturers routinely produce the minimum viable product to save on costs. This means minimal in all senses, including security.
It also apparently means a minimal sense of responsibility for data gathered by the devices.
And the data breaches can be personal. Super personal.
Which data exactly?
A recent report by ArsTechnica shows webcam streams of retail store rooms, private residences, and even sleeping babies easily viewed online.
Users of Internet of Things search engine Shodan can access and view insecure webcam feeds, and by extension any insecure data feed of basically any un-secured IoT device. Shodan trawls the net and compiles IP addresses with open ports. If it’s a video stream, Shodan screen-grabs it and adds it to its search results.
As we have discussed many times before, secure data is a vital component in maintaining consumer trust in brands.
If people are to feel comfortable using the internet of things to make their lives easier and connect to their health, lifestyle and favourite brands, it needs to be safe for them to do so.
This is quite a message to drive home, it has a lot of technical concepts to wrap your head around and it’s easy to ignore.
It’s not quite so easy to ignore a photo of a sleeping baby whose image you can access without the parents’ consent or, likely, knowledge.