Why Technology and Our Digital Age Still Need a Human Touch

The Internet of Things (IoT) world is currently a mess data breaches, imperfect algorithms, personal data abuse, countless bugs and security flaws all putting your privacy at risk.

 

So far we see no signs of future improvements. That’s why regulators are teaming up with researchers to find better ways of managing IoT and minimizing risks to consumers.

What’s up with IoT security

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University offered a solution: security labels for IoT devices to make privacy more transparent for users.

 

The researchers interviewed owners of IoT devices and security experts to find out the biggest concerns in the privacy domain. It turns out users are worried about their data processing if the information is sold to third parties. However, if the manufacturer keeps quiet, users don’t give it too much thought. This can put the consumer at risk.

Attempt to make privacy transparent

The idea of adding privacy labels is to raise awareness of the risks IoT devices pose to consumer privacy.

The researchers compare the so-called “privacy nutrition labels” with information about food product ingredients: read before consuming and don’t blame anyone later. 

If privacy was more transparent, users could consciously decide if purchasing the product would make their lives better or even worse.

 

Another important aspect is how these labels should be readable for both people and machines so the latter could read and process this information. For instance, online stores could implement this invention and add a filter based on information from the label. 

 

This way, visitors could sort IoT devices by their security levels and choose the most secure item to buy.

Implementation issues

Currently, researchers have only created prototypes of these labels using the product information available to the public. Although they have also shared the tool for creating such labels, there’s still a long way to go in the adoption of this technology and make it a new standard. 

As long as there’s no governmental regulation, it’s up to manufacturers to go transparent or not.

The label structure is flexible so manufacturers could add more details or explanations if needed. For instance, you may have trouble finding out if your smart thermostat has a microphone, especially if you didn’t know this when purchasing the device. 

 

However, if the manufacturer forewarns you about this and explains its choice, you can either agree the microphone does make sense here or disagree and go for a microphone-free thermostat.

The price of privacy  

So far, people don’t think too much about the privacy of their IoT devices so don’t pay too much attention to their security. The researchers found the understandable label can help people realize the possible risks and choose a more expensive, yet more secure product.

This way, labels could have a double effect. First, it will make consumers want to pay more for premium security, and second, it will motivate manufacturers to work on the security of their devices to make them more expensive.

Unfortunately, there’s always a possibility manufacturers decide to leave security as is and continue making vulnerable devices. In this case, only government regulation would help them focus on privacy and make their devices secure by default.

 

* * *

 

As long as the IoT world is still a mess, anyone who decides to equip their home needs to play around with settings, and aim to achieve a balance between good security and ease of access.

 

At Clario, we have developed a service to support, educate, and help using your connected devices. Should you ever need help, be it just a question, recommendation, or assistance with the data breach or vulnerability consequences – we are here for you 24/7. Stay safe out there.

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