Unless you’ve been living on Mars for the past few years, you’ll know that the Internet of Things has started to arrive. Billions upon billions of new internet-connected appliances, sensors and other smart gadgets promise to transform our lives, making us more productive, healthy and happy with thousands of them coming online every day. But with this IT revolution also comes new challenges, most notably around security and privacy. Are we happy about the volume of data these new devices collect on us? Do we feel in control of our privacy online? And would we be prepared to sell our data for the right price?
At Trend Micro we’re always looking to better understand our customers in order to improve our products and services. So we set out to answer these questions and many more besides in new research carried out by the Ponemon Institute. What we found out might surprise you.
Our modern connected world seems to be awash with stories of data loss and intrusive privacy encroachment. Every week we hear about another major breach of personal and financial data – whether it’s a big name retail brand, a financial institution, a healthcare provider or another faceless corporation. And that’s not even to mention a growing awareness that many of the service providers we interact with online are using and sharing our personal information for their own gain – often without telling us and frequently with no benefit to the end consumer.
Now imagine of the Internet of Things will impact all of that. It has the potential to massively increase the risk of data breaches and intrude on our privacy. We’ll be sharing more data about ourselves with IoT providers than we ever thought possible. From the fitness tracker on your wrist to the smart refrigerator in your kitchen, and even that emissions sensor on your automobile: the devices that previously just made life easier are now also collecting and storing data (some of it very personal).
So how do US consumers feel about this?
Do we care?
Our Ponemon research revealed some interesting insights into how the average US consumer regards security and privacy in this new, super-connected age.
On the one hand, a majority of us either believe that the benefits of IoT do not outweigh concerns over security and privacy – or are unsure about it. A majority (81 percent) also claim that they haven’t received, or are unsure if they’ve received, any information from IoT providers about how their personal information will be used. We also feel helpless about how our data is used. Some 79 percent claimed they rarely or never have control over data when browsing or buying online, and 66 percent felt the same when purchasing in-store. A further quarter said they don’t know how their personal info is used.
But while most of us don’t believe our employers should have access to our IoT data, a shocking 59 percent said they would be willing to sell personal data to trusted firms. Health data, passwords and social security information were valued highest by respondents.
What does this mean?
Would we really be so willing to hand over our most personal data? How can we be sure the firms we sell to can be “trusted”? We could explain this stat by claiming the respondents are perhaps simply unaware of the privacy and security implications of selling personal data. However, 68 percent of respondents said they understand that personal information is valuable to marketing and sales departments – illustrating a certain grasp of the issues involved.
It’s not possible to know for sure whether US consumers fully appreciate the implications of selling their personal data. But what is certain from this report is that the IoT industry could do a much better job of communicating and educating customers, to get the transparency and user buy-in it needs to grow.
To find out more on this fascinating research, click here to download the report: Privacy and Security in a Connected Life: A Study of US Consumers.
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