With the Samsung privacy issue fresh in everyone’s minds, the fears about the Internet of Things and the potential for an even more invasive surveillance culture is quickly becoming a reality. At least, that is what privacy advocates at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) address in their latest report.
There is no real way to avoid the issue any longer. We have devices that monitor pretty much everything we do. Fitness trackers create GPS routes of our runs. Nutrition trackers log everything we eat. Car navigation systems know where we drive. Online banking apps keep track of where we spend our money. Our phones are always on us, wearable devices are becoming more popular then ever, consoles are always connected to the web, and TV and other entertainment devices have both visual and audio access into our homes.
All of this doesn’t even account for the endless products being released in prototype or full manufacturing stage that turn our houses into smarthomes, a new level of connectivity that gives us the ability to know the moment anyone even rings our doorbells, no matter where we are.
Right now, the technology is growing very quickly. Which presents the same problems that technology always does: it spreads and changes before we can get a legal or ethical handle on the implications.
The FTC’s new report warns companies that this rapid growth without contingencies and policies in place to protect consumer privacy will undermine the market. After all, with so many violations coming to light (looking at you, every government agency across the globe), how can customers feel safe with the looming threat that the NSA is going to backdoor their way into their Kinect and watch them play Dance Party XVXIII: One Direction Edition (a game I made up but that I am sure will be coming in the next year)?
But there is a more disturbing reality afoot then Samsung being unable to flog more TVs that can listen to you gossiping about your neighbor on the phone. It is the very fact that we are creating an endless line of products that even a department of the US government, one of the most invasive forces in the known universe, is concerned about.
I’m not saying that we are on the verge of developing our own Two Minutes of Hate. But the FTC is right, we are throwing ourselves headlong into a future that doesn’t have the rules to backup the reach.
We are already seeing the consequences of that.