Do Privacy Concerns Really Change With The Internet Of Things?


Rawn Shah, Contributor

July 3, 2015

 I see purposeful obfuscation and lack of transparency on the part of companies. Understanding is easier when a company is interested in telling me what they are doing with my data first, then interested in making a profit second.

This is one of the reactions in the report by the Altimeter Group, Consumer Perceptions of Privacy in the Internet of Things written by Jessica Groopman with Susan Etlinger. The sentiment rings a sharp note out through our cloud of concerns about privacy. After years of stories on crackers that break into accounts and company databases to see our private information, we now face a new reality. While we are certainly concerned with illegal use or theft of our data, the legal or permissible use of data collection and analytics on consumer behavior is likely far more common and wider impacting.

Altimeter report shared some of their key findings:

  1. Consumers’ top concern: Who is seeing my data?
  2. At least half of consumers expressed extreme discomfort with the use and sale of their data in connected ‘real world’ environments.
  3. Consumers want more information and more engagement around privacy
  4. Consumers demand value in exchange for their data
  5. Technological awareness informs trust and influences consumer expectations for engagement.

Most of us don’t have enough knowledge about how the technology uses our info that leaves many to feel helpless. We have the extreme discomfort (per the report) but we don’t understand enough to describe our pain. What we do know is that we don’t want it to happen without having any say in it.

We would like to get some value out of it, because we suspect someone is doing so already. There is a value chain there somewhere built up around our information individually, aggregated with other data about ourselves, or with data from other people. It’s this data value chain invisible to us that we think is being profited on by someone.

The question of if this is specific to the connected devices that we associate with the Internet of Things is almost beside the point. According to the Altimeter Group report, our highest priority begin with proximity to our identities (in the following order):

  1. On or related to our bodies (e.g. wearables, fitness trackers)
  2. In our homes (e.g. connected home products)
  3. In modes of private transportation (e.g. our cars, bikes)
  4. In modes of public transportation (e.g. our trains, planes)
  5. In public marketplaces (e.g. malls, in-stores)
  6. In public institutions (e.g. museums, stadiums)
  7. In public spaces (e.g. parks, street crossings)

Yet, to me it’s not simply about data collection from these devices around us. Rather, these are just the start of the data value chains.  There’s an industry of data brokers built up around working on this information.

We want to know where they are going, and what is happening to this hidden life of our data (see Fig 1). We are still generally aware of the nuances of this issue. In comparison, when it comes to our health data, we have a much more mature attitude and more legal protections around them. Historically, we have seen the danger of manipulation of such data in extreme cases. As a society we haven’t seen the same of our online data. The pain does not seem as severe

In addition, it might also create personal financial opportunities. Per Altimeter Group, consumers are most compelled to share their data in exchange for savings in money, time or energy (see Fig 2). In a prior piece, It’s a Small Data World After All, I pointed out views on how we might price some of our data, as well as how me might benefit.

Solving this problem has led to the emergence of a category of Life Management platforms that give individuals some degree of ownership over their data and the mechanisms to negotiate and manage their entry into these data value chains. Companies like make it possible, but the question still remains an awareness issue: Did you even know that you could do this?

Once we have a better realization of this situation, we might figure out that there are possible passive revenue streams for us individually, or better ways to handle what other interests do with our information. Whether it is the profit motive or personal privacy that influences you, start by asking for information how it is used, that isn’t buried or obfuscated in legal jargon.

Rawn Shah is a Director at Rising Edge, an independent consultancy focused on work culture, collaboration, and the future of work. He is also Partner at Ethos VO, Ltd., the innovation-focused Networked Organization in the UK.  He can be reached on Twitter, or LinkedIn.

This article was written by Rawn Shah from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

Comment this article

Great ! Thanks for your subscription !

You will soon receive the first Content Loop Newsletter