Building Trust Improving Technical Security Internet of Things (IoT) Privacy

What’s Your Answer? Opting Out of the IoT

I recently visited Nairobi where I took a tour of iHub (Innovation Hub – and a set of related small incubator labs. After the inspiring tour, a security professional approached me. She had not wanted to ask the question in public but asked me privately: Can people opt out of the Internet of Things?

It was immediately clear what she meant: When new technologies are introduced we often have the option to not use them. When the printing press was introduced I think that there were people who chose not to use books. The Amish choose not to use cars, and in the Internet age there are many people that opt not to use social media.

But in a slightly dystopian vision of the Internet of Things there may not be any possibilities to opt out. So that is what I answered, roughly:

There may not be a possibility to opt out because in the smart cities of the future, sensors may track our moves, recognize our faces, and hear our voices. The dystopian view helps us to understand what societal boundaries we need to set and that is a discussion that will have to inform policies. To what extend do we accept that there is a minority that does not want to be exposed to technology?

Of course these discussions are taking place already; the debate around privacy and the impact of data gathering in the age of Internet and Big Data is active and engaged. But this question summarized it all and I wonder how you would have answered it.

Please use the Internet Society’s Connect platform to share your thoughts; you have to be an Internet Society member, ironically something that you cannot opt out from.

About this Series: Public speaking sometimes results in spontaneous questions that are more or less related to the topic at hand. Often the wisdom is in the question, not in the answer, and when talking about the Open Internet the questions can touch all aspects of the (Internet) Society. I hope to use some of these spontaneous questions as springboards for conversations on our Internet Society member discussion portal, Connect.