Privacy concerns will ratchet up further around IoT and 5G. Even if the industry manages to secure the billions of IoT devices already deployed, they permeate so many aspects of life that it will be nearly impossible to keep personal and private information out of the public domain.
The rollout of 5G will further accelerate the proliferation of IoT technology as manufacturers rush to produce low-cost devices with integrated connectivity. All Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) are keen to adopt 5G, with IoT and Enterprise services being primary drivers, providing operators with access to new revenue opportunities from new services and applications.
The proliferation of private data in the public domain will expand hackers’ capabilities. Social engineering is the most effective method cybercriminals use to breach secure systems. They know consumers will continue to connect more devices in their homes, offices, and cars, not to mention public spaces, allowing them to create a more complete picture of a person’s activities, locations, likes and dislikes.
Even when these gadgets use encryption to transfer data, the backend systems with which they communicate may have their own flaws. And, even anonymized data can be used to infer a lot when cross-correlated. The Princeton University IoT Research Project had this to say about the phenomenon:
“Let’s say you have a Roku TV and that you are live-streaming the Bloomberg Channel without interacting with the TV otherwise. Do you know that the Bloomberg Channel could be communicating with 13 different advertising and tracking servers in the background? Or let’s say you have a smart Geeni light bulb. Are you aware that it could be communicating with a Chinese company every 30 seconds even while you are not using the bulb?”
One might recall the loyalty card craze of the 80s which spurred the IT storage market and opened the door to the broad adoption of data science technologies. Customers began to feel more and more uneasy about the level of detail companies were tracking and able to infer about them. IoT may take this to a whole new level.
Smart connected devices are making the idea of Big Brother much more real; businesses can know what time their customers wake up in the morning, when they brush their teeth, when they put the baby to sleep, when they vacuum the living room, and what they watch on TV.
Customers might not feel violated today, but all this data could come back to haunt them in the future as more and more complete models of our lifestyles are built and used within algorithms that could make decisions that profoundly affect us e.g. banks could deny loans, insurance companies could increase their premiums.
The data that represents our interactions with the connected world is undoubtedly valuable, and regulatory frameworks rightly exist to ensure it is used responsibly and stored / transferred securely; however, the speed of innovation and the range of information are changing the game. The time is now to design systems with visibility, transparency, and security integrated from the start.