back to article Warning to those who covet the data of Internet of Precious Things

Data generated by devices in the "internet of things" age should be "regarded and treated as personal data", data protection authorities from across the globe have agreed. The watchdogs said it is "more likely than not" that such data can be attributed to individuals. "Internet of things’ sensor data is high in quantity, …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Consent on the basis of such policies can hardly be considered to be informed"

    Well... that's the whole problem is it...

    Who the hell reads the EULA's / T&C's before clicking on the 'yes' button anyway ?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "Consent on the basis of such policies can hardly be considered to be informed"

      Who the hell reads the EULA's / T&C's before buying a kettle anyway?

      1. Doctor_Wibble
        Boffin

        Re: "Consent on the basis of such policies can hardly be considered to be informed"

        > Who the hell reads the EULA's / T&C's before buying a kettle anyway?

        The 'please read carefully' instruction manual (new kettle, so not yet used to prop table leg) starts with safety warnings aimed at people who (a) have never seen a kettle before (b) have not heard of electricity (c) do not even comprehend the concept of a device to make water hot (d) do not know that water is a liquid that often pours out of a not-upright container.

        This sort of booklet is a scary mish-mash of different-capability stuff (later pages have a wiring diagram for the plug) so you can bury the ultra-tiny print near enough anywhere.

        TLDR: That was clearly a rhetorical question so I won't answer it.

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: "Consent on the basis of such policies can hardly be considered to be informed"

      They just replaced the electric meters here with ones which constantly phone home with your usage. There was informed consent on the new smart meters - you could have one, or you could use candles.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    "...such data should be regarded and treated as personal data."

    Well, it's nice to see that they've got that right.

    However, this all means precisely nothing to us data sources unless we have the right to refuse transmission of anything other than essential operational data to the collectors, without any loss or reduction in effectiveness of the equipment. And it must be a positive decision on the consumer's part to allow such transmission (not buried in T&Cs).

    We cannot trust the data collectors to play fair with us.

    1. Richard Jones 1
      FAIL

      Re: "...such data should be regarded and treated as personal data."

      I am struggling to either see when, if ever I would be interested in an IOT device and why it would be of any value to me. Certainly any data it produced would be very much personal data. However, I guess that gateway router firewalls are designed to apply any necessary restrictions to data leakage. Frankly if I was to be lumbered with something as undesirable I would only be interested in any data being routed to my data collection point.

      I am aware that some 'entertainment devices' love sending stuff about you to their home location. Pardon me, but if I bought such a device, it would be part of MY home. I would do everything I could to block its wayward ways. If the device did not like the situation it would be returned without hesitation as not fit for purpose.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I am struggling to [...] be interested in an IOT device

        Why not, for the sake of argument, pretend your phone is a "thing". If a smartphone, it's most likely got some sort of internettyness about it, and various sensors it can report on; perhaps some or all of that data might be "personal".

    2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: "...such data should be regarded and treated as personal data."

      Emphasis on should.

      Nice to know they think that way.

      Sad that we have to have official agencies to say that.

      Sadder still that the NSA and the US Government doesn't give a rat's ass about it.

  3. frank ly

    How can IoT stuff help me?

    Apart from the 'convenience' of remotely read gas/electricity/water meters (no need to be there to let a meter reader in once a year), how can an IoT domestic thing actually make my life easier, in a noticeable way, than it already is?

    (Note: I don't 'need' to contact my central heating system to get it to warm up early if I intend to arrive home early because I don't suffer from a low metabolism and I have wooly jumpers at home.)

    1. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

      Re: How can IoT stuff help me?

      Maybe it can't and perhaps never will, but then again you may see some merit in something which can tell you the water is inches deep in your home and rising rapidly, or perhaps not. It might depend on whether you bought a house on a flood plain or near the coast.

      Just because you haven't seen an IoT application which you perceive would or could help you doesn't mean that others haven't or won't. There is plenty of technology I don't see myself having any use for but that doesn't mean others feel the same way.

      You need to ask, not what IoT can do for you, but what you would like IoT to do for you. Perhaps there is nothing you need which IoT could fulfil, in which case it's a technology you can ignore.

      1. (AMPC) Anonymous and mostly paranoid coward
        Gimp

        Re: How can IoT stuff help me?

        Good points, most IoT applications seek to make global sense out of a lot of data, such as weather measurements, traffic flow, power usage and so on. Properly anonymized, managed and shared, this data can be used for much goodness.

        As long as we don't use it to create a Minority Report lifestyle.

        It is certainly OK if the fridge informs me my yogurt is running low, and (why not?) automatically and discreetly order more yogurt for immediate drone delivery, if I opted for that. What's not to like? Ideally, it would not link my PII for any use other than stats, billing and stock managment. These are solutions that can be built in from the beginning, if we think it through.

        On the other hand if the fridge told all itinerant yogurt salesman in the area that I needed yogurt and sent then my home address, phone number and email, that fridge would soon be heading for a recycling center or a new owner.

        I'd like to believe we are smart enough to prevent this from happening.

        1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

          Re: "It is certainly OK if the fridge informs me my yogurt is running low"

          It is certainly not, because that would mean widespread modifications of how what we buy is packaged and tagged, meaning most probably that some unknown third party could be aware of my buying habits without my knowledge or consent.

          In addition, it would mean sensors and item check-in/check-out when I just want to grab a can. This is not going to be easily automated, so it will most likely be just another nuisance infringing on my private life.

          And please do not go the automatic order route, it is not worth the convenience. That path is just littered with Impending Expletive Devices.

          1. LaeMing
            Joke

            Re: "It is certainly OK if the fridge informs me my yogurt is running low"

            Day 26. With my fridge still crashed, I am now starving to death as I have no idea how to get food delivered without my fridge's assistance.

            Thus ends humanity.

            (See Scott Broukell's post below for a more involved version of this scenario!)

            1. BongoJoe

              Re: "It is certainly OK if the fridge informs me my yogurt is running low"

              I have come home from a four week holiday to find a mountain of mouldy yoghurt on the doorstep.

              It seems that I have neglected to tell the fridge that I was going on holiday when I finshed off the yoghurt and it ordered more. It then found the next day that the fridge wasn't restocked so it ordered more...

        2. Zog_but_not_the_first
          Facepalm

          Re: How can IoT stuff help me?

          "It is certainly OK if the fridge informs me my yogurt is running low, and (why not?) automatically and discreetly order more yogurt for immediate drone delivery"

          Hack, hack, hack. Tap, tap, tap. " order more yogurt bull semen".

    2. Graham 24

      Re: How can IoT stuff help me?

      >>> Apart from the 'convenience' of remotely read gas/electricity/water meters (no need to be there to let a meter reader in once a year)

      It's not about convenience for you. If the only reason was to make life easier for the householder, the utility companies wouldn't be suggesting smart meters for new builds, which usually have the meters in an external box, so can be read without requiring access to the inside of the property.

      It's about:

      a) reducing their costs, while not passing those savings onto the consumer

      b) implementing demand- and time-based pricing, to further increase their profits and to help load-level the demand.

  4. The Mole

    "Assuming that all data generated by IoT devices is personal data is too simplistic and unhelpful insofar as it transfers the burden of proof onto data controllers to demonstrate otherwise,” data protection law specialist Marc Dautlich of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said. “A better approach for all would be to undertake a considered analysis of the data generated by IoT devices, including analytics derived from their output, and use that as the basis for the organisation’s privacy strategy."

    Um, presumably it is the data controller who is doing this considered analysis? Therefore starting from a position of assuming it is personal data until the considered analysis shows otherwise is a far better strategy than assuming that it isn't and then (eventually) doing the considered analysis which then shows you are breaking the law.

    1. Gannon (J.) Dick

      " ... which then shows you are breaking the law."

      William of Occam should advertise his Razor on the web. That would be really cool.

  5. Tromos

    Coveting the precious things

    This is LOCAL data - for LOCAL people.

    1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    2. JudeKay (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Coveting the precious things

      I was going to go for that... This is me when I remembered that "local data" has a technical meaning http://mashable.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Dr.-Who.gif

  6. Scott Broukell
    Meh

    Here are the latest headlines at ten.

    It is thought that, in the UK alone, as many as 2.5m people may have starved to death over the past fortnight due to the global I.O.T. system malfunction that has left people unable to access their locked-down fridges and larders. On top of this I.O.T. devices have been unable to contact supermarkets via automated ordering systems and some people have met their deaths whilst rashly venturing outside to find edible food stuffs. As their vehicles cannot self-navigate properly these people have had to take drastic action and try to walk to the corner store only to have been run down by errant self-driving vehicles which have been circulating in and around urban areas and out-of-town hyper-markets, desperately trying to synchronize their on-board auto-shopping systems data with the failing I.O.T. system. In some horrific cases the occupants of these errant vehicles have themselves been found to be deceased.

    The reason behind this latest I.O.T outage is blamed on the increasing space radiation that has struck the Earth in the past year, and not, as was at first thought, by yet another update patch being applied hastily, late on a Friday evening, by a discouraged system-admin. The increased levels of nasty space radiation and the reduced strength of the suns magneto-sphere has led to satellites and power grid systems being taken down or damaged. This has had an unforeseen and negative affect upon global I.O.T. Systems.

    In other news, shares in long-life milk, egg powder, dry biscuit and mint-cake products have shot up.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Here are the latest headlines at ten.

      You jest, but the probability approaches 100%.

      And that's NO joke.

  7. dan1980

    And . . . ?

    All well and good to treat this as 'personal data' but when has that been respected anyway?

    1. LaeMing

      Re: And . . . ?

      We won't see serious action on this sort of thing until politicians' IoT data starts getting dumped into the public domain.

  8. This post has been deleted by a moderator

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