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The internet of things and data protection

30 September 2014

The Internet of Things has now arrived although I think it has been here for some while. It used to be called 'Ubiquitous Computing' and in the late 1990's it was perceived that the use of information and personal data would be shared between equipment without necessarily human intervention. 

Indeed, the rise of Smart barcodes and RFID technology over the past 20 years has made such data sharing possible.

In essence, the Internet of Things is based on the presumption that Smart equipment fitted with connectivity technology will produce added value services to individuals without them necessarily having to make choices.

I remember in the late 1990's advising a remote metering company as well as a company with a product called TrashIT. Remote meters are here now and allow the reading of electricity and gas meters with limited human intervention. 

The notion of TrashIT was that when cartons and empty packaging were disposed in the trashcan they would be swiped past a Smart reader in the trashcan and then instantaneously re-order replacement products and goods.

Much as then we now hear about Smart fridges performing a similar function.

According to Cisco, the number of objects connected to the internet already exceeds the number of people on earth and it is inevitable according to the European Commission, that the Internet of Things will be reality very shortly.

However, the protection of rights of individuals, particularly in relation to their personal data, is a core concern of the European Commission and, as a consequence, they recently launched a consultation to determine what freedom is needed to "unleash the potential economic and societal benefits of the Internet of Things, whilst ensuring an adequate level of control of the device gathering, processing and storing information."

In its press release on 22 September 2014 the Article 29 Data Protection Working Party said:

"The European data protection authorities, assembled in the Article 29 Working Party (WP29) at its Plenary meeting of 16 and 17 September, adopted an opinion on the Internet of Things (IoT).

"Drawing the attention on the privacy and data protection challenges raised by "smart things" which are gradually entering our daily lives, the WP29 helps stakeholders acquire a strong competitive advantage by explaining them how to implement a sustainable IoT which complies with the data protection legal framework."

This article was written by Robert Bond.

For more information contact Robert on +44 (0)20 7427 6660 or robert.bond@crsblaw.com