BBC has a discussion about the “Internet of Things,” which is a computerized network of physical objects (it can use radio frequency identification technology — RFID). In IoT, sensors and data storage devices embedded in objects interact with Web services. Here’s one example: An IoT networked refrigerator could notify an owner when food spoils, when there are manufacturer recalls or when there are sales of food. (For more on privacy and the IoT, see a Center for Democracy and Technology report that I consulted on and contributed to, “Building the Digital Out-Of-Home Privacy Infrastructure.”)
IoT advocates claim that overall interconnectivity would allow us to locate and monitor everything, everywhere and at any time. […]
But as more objects leak into the digital world, the fine line that separates the benefits of increasingly smart technology and possible privacy concerns becomes really blurred.
“The IoT challenge is likely to grow both in scale and complexity as seven billion humans are expected to coexist with 70 billion machines and perhaps 70,000 billion ‘smart things’, with numbers infiltrating the last redoubts of personal life,” says Gerald Santucci, head of the networked enterprise and RFID unit at the European Commission.
“In such a new context, the ethical worries are manifold: to what extent can surveillance of people be accepted? Which principles should govern the deployment of the IoT?” […]
“In much of the monitoring, tracking and tracing [devices] which are embedded in these facilities, there’s privacy relevance, and it will have to be compliant with the new European Commission Framework,” [Peter Hustinx, European data protection supervisor,] says.
The Framework was signed by the European Commission in April 2011, and its main purpose is to safeguard consumer privacy and assure the public that web-connected objects are safe for the industry to develop – and for people to consume.