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Chris Merriman

Tech Commentator

In the blue corner

I've really enjoyed reading all the comments so far, not only Louise's & Karen's opinions, but those of the INQUIRER readers. They have, however, only served to strengthen my resolve.

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Louise Taylor

Senior Associate at Taylor Wessing

In the orange corner

I agree that the Internet of Things is likely to make it more difficult for us to keep track of, and control, our personal data. However, this difficulty doesn't sound a death knell for privacy, and could in fact have the effect of reinforcing its importance.

Madeline-bennett-v3-and-inquirer-editor-80x80 moderator

Madeline Bennett

The INQUIRER Editor

Moderator

Karen Lomas's guest post painted a vivid picture of how our most daily basic activities are already impacted by the Internet of Things - for good and bad.

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Chris-merriman-80x80 Proposer
Chris Merriman

Tech Commentator

I've really enjoyed reading all the comments so far, not only Louise's & Karen's opinions, but those of the INQUIRER readers. They have, however, only served to strengthen my resolve.

Karen speaks of a utopia that, at least on paper, sounds wonderful but in reality, I'm not sure it would work so well in the cynical consumerist world of 21st century earth. Equally, Louise's assurance that the legal profession will protect us is reassuring, but the law is no use to anyone if the information is already in the public domain - the jack doesn't go back in the box as easily as it popped out.
 
I think we still need to concentrate on educating people on how to share information responsibily. In a typical day, you'll probably press an "OK" button on some terms and conditions you haven't read at least once. Believe it or not, back in 2010, the now defunct Gamestation chain added an "Immortal Soul" clause to its terms and conditions just to prove this point. A staggering 88 percent of people failed to tick the opt-out box for the clause which meant that, in law, Gamestation owned those customers' souls. (The 12 percent that spotted it, meanwhile, got a £5 gift voucher for being clever-clogs).
 
My point is, even if the law can protect us from criminals who misuse our data - and I still maintain that "the lawyers will get you" is not going to deter the average criminal - the one thing that the legal system can't protect us from is ourselves. Unless we understand exactly what we're waivering when we tick a box, then we could be giving up everything, from medical information, through to the intellectual copyright on our own selfies.
 
You could be the most streetwise, cyber-smart, law-savvy citizen on the planet, but more and more you are going to be asked to give permission to share information about yourself in order to make the Internet of Things work, and each and every one will come with a long list list of terms and conditions written in legalese. We can't all have a lawyer present to dissect them every time, yet if you agree to them without reading each and every line, you may well be put in a position where no lawyer can help you anyway, because you consented, and what's more they have proof you consented to have your data used in this way.
 
And so the next time, they could end up owning your soul for real, just so you can get personalised selections at your favourite deli, or more eye contact at the airport. Is it really worth it?

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Louise-taylor-law-firm-taylor-wessing-80x80 opposer
Louise Taylor

Senior Associate at Taylor Wessing

I agree that the Internet of Things is likely to make it more difficult for us to keep track of, and control, our personal data. The number (and length) of privacy policies will make it harder to give informed consent to the processing of personal information collected via a multitude of devices, and to then remember who is using all of that information and for what purposes.

However, this difficulty doesn't sound a death knell for privacy, and could in fact have the effect of reinforcing its importance.

Some people will be prepared to effectively trade their data for the benefit of having a toothbrush that lets them know when it needs replacing, or a fridge that can order milk before they even realise they're running low.

But for many people, these perceived benefits don't yet outweigh their privacy concerns. These individuals won't hand over their personal details to the tech vendor, marketers, data analysts and other various parties just so that they don't have to remember to put 'milk' or 'toothbrush' on the shopping list.

And if people don't have faith in the ability of tech vendors to secure their data from loss, data leakage or inappropriate use, then the Internet of Things could ultimately fail to live up to expectations. 

Fostering confidence and trust will therefore be integral to its success, and this will rely on transparent and easily digestible privacy policies as well as tightly controlled data flows and robust security mechanisms. To get critical mass, vendors will need to comply – and be seen to comply - with existing data protection laws, which will mean implementing proper controls and practices regarding personal data.

Admittedly, this will involve some technical and design challenges for tech vendors but ultimately will be necessary for their commercial success.

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Madeline-bennett-v3-and-inquirer-editor-80x80 moderator
Madeline Bennett

The INQUIRER Editor

Karen Lomas's guest post painted a vivid picture of how our most daily basic activities are already impacted by the Internet of Things - for good and bad.

The key message from this debate so far, seems to be we need a way to control the amount of data flying around due to the proliferation of apps, smart devices and thirst for knowledge about our habits.

I'd be happy to share a small amount of data about some of my habits and activities in return for convenience, for example faster purchase of some tickets online or being told if I need to stock up on milk. But I don't want that data to be shared with more than the one organisation I need to share it with for that particular task.

We just need someone to come up with a piece of technology that easily allows us to control who sees our data, while letting us have the convenience IoT can offer. Maybe not a simple task...

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