Earlier in March, a sex toy manufacturer settled to pay customers up to about £6,000 after it was revealed that its connected vibrator was tracking owners’ use without their knowledge. The device could be controlled by Bluetooth or remotely, but contained a number of security flaws; from allowing anybody to take control of it, to sending back intimate data about the sexual habits of about 100,000 users to the manufacturer (source).
A titillating headline maybe, but an example of exactly the kind of personal data that we may be revealing from our connected devices. Often without our knowing. As we have more connected devices in our home and in our lives we need, as consumers, to have a better understanding of the data we are sharing and with whom. And in a world where many consumers do not realise that their Facebook and browser behaviour is being used to target adverts at them, for example, or where passwords security is still woeful for many, it seems unlikely that we will be thinking about what data our connected car, TV, toaster or sex toy may be sharing and with whom.
There is now more data available on individuals than ever before. We are logging and sharing data in a useful format on everything from our energy usage to our internet browsing or even how often we boil a connected kettle. This structured data can then be used to infer many things about individuals and their lives. And when compared with growing data sets of other users, it allows us to make even more inferences.
But do we realise that the connected devices we are using are sharing this data? And do we realise who they are sharing it with? As connected devices become more commonplace, consumers need to be asking more questions about the data they are creating and sharing. And they need to be convinced that the loss of such data is worth the benefit of being able to control a device remotely.