Thankful for the Internet of Things Feast, but With a Side of Privacy Concern


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In the late 1990s and early 2000s, mobile phones were just that: mobile phones. Sure, some phones had built-in games such as Snake and even web browsers, but consumers mostly relied on personal computers and gaming systems for entertainment and internet connectivity. After Apple Inc. introduced the first iPhone in 2007, mobile phones evolved from dumb to smart, and were on a fast track to becoming the one-stop-shop for consumers’ online activities.

Fast forward to 2017, consumers use their phones to check emails, watch movies and YouTube videos, browse the internet, play games downloaded from app stores, hail ride-sharing services, unlock doors, start cars, etc. In addition to phones, traditionally “dumb devices” such as lightbulbs and thermostats are increasingly becoming connected to the internet. The smart home, where utilities, appliances, home security, and pretty much every electronic device is connected to the internet, is fast becoming a reality.

The ubiquitous presence of internet of things has changed consumers’ lifestyles and how they interact with computers, according to a recent study by ReportLinker. The study found that 41 percent of the 508 respondents owned smart home devices, and 36 percent of smart home owners said the technologies make their life easier and increase savings on energy bills. Despite these benefits of smart devices, there are some areas of concern that come with the increased level of internet connectivity. About a quarter of the respondents said that they have privacy concerns about their data. 

Concern about data privacy isn’t a new problem, as hackers have been targeting valuable private data for years. However, consumers must also be aware that the companies may be sharing their private information, online activities, and other sensitive data.  A newly-filed lawsuit focuses on allegations of unwanted data sharing.

According to a complaint filed in a federal district court in New York, a mother used her iPhone to purchase a movie DVD for her daughter from Barnes & Noble Inc.’s website. Following her purchase, she allegedly discovered that certain information about her purchase may have been transmitted without her consent from Barnes & Noble’s website to Facebook Inc.’s database. The plaintiff alleged that the shared information included the name of the DVD purchased, the purchase price, the internet protocol address used for the purchase, and other information about the iPhone. The district court Nov. 20 granted the bookseller’s bid to resolve the issue through arbitration.

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