Can we expect privacy in an Internet of Things world?

As more of our everyday devices, services, and industries connect to the internet we are left with the question - what does this mean for individual privacy?

It was way back in 1989 that the world saw its first internet toaster. Created by John Romkey and Simon Hackett, the Sunbeam toaster logged online with TCP/IP networking and from a connected computer anywhere in the world you could turn the toaster on or off. Yet a human was still required to put in the bread.

The question of whether an internet-connected toaster was needed was not discussed. It was the challenge to merely prove that such an appliance was possible that fuelled the efforts of Romkey and Hackett.

Today we have so many items that are interconnected. Take a look around you now and see how many items connect to the internet - your fitbit, your phone, your television. How about how many items have the potential to connect?

Remember the smart fridge that can text you when you're out of milk? That smart fridge might sit in a smart home, where automated lighting operates when you’re on holiday and a smart meter controls energy flow.

The Smart Home then connects to a Smart City where traffic lights know when to change based on traffic flow, or connected bins signal they need emptying when full.

When we zoom out from the individual connected devices we see a greater connected network forming that includes whole industries, cities, cultures, countries, and beyond.

This flourish of networked objects where everything is connected to everything is known as the Internet of Things and is quickly becoming a reality. So what happens to personal privacy in this networked society?

The prospect of such comprehensive and all-encompassing collection of data inextricably linked to the lives of humans raises troubling scenarios of consumer surveillance, identity theft, invasive marketing, and more potent hacking methods affecting personal lives, including the most sensitive private information.

Our Internet of Things (IoT) and Consumer Privacy research project is exploring the current climate of consumer privacy awareness and looking to map out ways that IoT objects can meet and adhere to consumer privacy needs, without stifling innovation.

Get involved

We are looking for more people to participate in this exciting research project.

If you are an entrepreneur or engineer in the area of IoT software development, or if you are involved in IoT data analytics (a 3rd party data user) we would love to hear from you.

We are conducting brief 30 minute interviews about views on privacy. As this is an Australia-focused study interviewees must be working in Australia or with Australian companies.

Find out more on our Project page, feel free to contact us with any questions, and please share this request with your networks.

The more opinions we gather, the more informed our results, and we want you to have your say on this important issue because the privacy implications can affect us all.

More Information

Kate Murray

8344 5335