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Smart Devices Create Challenges And Privacy Threats For Consumers

There are plenty of smart devices you can buy online or in retail stores for your smart home: smart televisions, home audio speakers, fitness bands, smart watches, light switches, talking dolls and toys, smart home thermometers, cars with GPS and sensors, drones, and much more. And, your utility company probably uses smart meters to transmit via wireless your usage, instead of paying technicians to visit your home.

Many or most of these devices have hands-free voice controls. That feature provides a huge convenience, but along with it comes the privacy threat that it can (or does) record everything you say... whether you intend it for the device or not.

The Times Union highlighted several problems smart devices create for consumers. The first is the hope that the device manufacturer adequately protects your information from data breaches and thieves:

"You may never know for sure. At best, you can hope the company keeps its promises on privacy. More important, you have to trust that its computer systems are really secure, or those promises are suddenly worthless. That part is increasingly difficult to guarantee — or believe — as hacking becomes routine."

At least one fitness maker already had a substantial data breach. People want to try the new devices to see if and how they might benefit. There's nothing wrong with that. The second problem:

"Every technological benefit comes with a cost in the form of a threat to privacy. Yet not paying that price has its own cost: an inability to participate in some of technology's greater achievements."

There has to be a better way. Consumers should not have a to choose between giving up privacy in order to use smart devices versus living under a rock without smart devices to maintain privacy. What are your opinions?


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Chanson de Roland

Two remedies that would do much provide the benefits of smart devices, which also monitor our online and offline actions, behavior, and location (i.e., our Personal Information), would be for the Congress to more clearly establish that a user’s personal information is his intellectual property in which he has a copyright--which I think that the law already provides for, though the courts have refused to acknowledge it--and for the courts to acknowledge and enforce that copyright.

The second thing would be for the FTC to require that those, who seek a user’s license to monitor and/or collect his Personal Information, fully disclose, in terms that a layman can understand, how they will use the licensed Personal information, the consideration that they will pay for it, how they will collect it, how they will store it, how they will protect that collected Personal Information and that such protection satisfy minimal standards of competence and effectiveness, the terms on which the collected Personal Information is sub-licensed to third parties, keep records of who they give the collected Personal Information to, and require that the original license and sub-licenses for the Personal Information terminates no later than when the user terminates his business relationship with the person who licensed his Personal Information.

That foregoing would do a lot to effectively protect a user’s privacy by letting them decide who they will license their Personal Information to and on what terms, leaving it to them, the users, to decide what tradeoff they will accept to use smart/monitoring devices, or perhaps even forgoing particular devices if they don’t like the terms being offered. And it would create a competition among those seeking to license users’ Personal Information, which would, from the users’ perspective, improve both the terms and other consideration that they would receive for their Personal Information.

But all of this depends on government doing its job of serving the peoples’ interests and protecting the peoples’ right, rather than serving the interests and being nothing more than shills for big collectors of our Personal Information, Facebook, Google, et. al.

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