A future look on privacy: the Internet of things 👩‍💻💡

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The internet can be seen as a living entity: always changing and evolving. New applications and technologies are on the rise year after year. Up until recently computers and the internet are almost wholly dependent on human beings. We as humans need to either push a button, make a connection, add information to the device or snap a barcode in order to make the device work as we want it to. People have been responsible for these tasks throughout the history of all computing devices, yet people have certain limitations such as time, efficiency and overall motivation to do these kinds of tasks. The Internet of things will become bigger and bigger and will even be anthropomorphised by humans as they show interest in doing so. By anthropomorphising human aspects will be added to AI and even everyday objects. In relation to the internet of things this will be executed by giving daily objects a sense of ‘thinking’ on its own, without pushing these buttons or plugging this thing in.

The internet of things will bring a new era of
ubiquitous computers and devices. Radio Frequency Identification techniques (RFID) are the ground on which the internet of things will stand upon (RFID are radiofrequencies used to track or identify objects). We have moved from human to human communication to human to thing and even thing to thing. The internet of things can be seen as simple objects you use in your daily life that are connected to the internet and are able to identify themselves and identify themselves in comparison to other devices.

Yet in order for the internet of things to work it has to be safe and uphold a certain sense of privacy. Imagine opening your front door with your phone, you would have to be sure that no one else can get into your house by hacking the system or for example by default. Or maybe opening your computer not by password but by placing your phone near it, you would want to be sure that no one else can see your private documents. So, we can state that the internet of things has to be resilient to attacks, it needs date authentication, access control (like with your front door) and client privacy.

These privacy requirements are made sure by privacy enhancing technologies. Such as virtual private network, which is a network in which only the partners have access, yet this does not enable global and dynamic information exchange. There is also transport layer security which is a global trust structure consisting of many layers however the layers negatively affect the search of (new) information. Onion routing encrypts mixes and encrypts internet traffic from many different sources. The data is wrapped into multiple encryption layers matching a particular internet protocol packet to a particular source however this increases waiting time and thereby results in performances issues. The ideal system has not been invented yet.

Companies also play a big role in consumer privacy and trust. This all begins with transparency. When data of the consumer are used, the customer should be informed precisely in what way, to ensure consumer trust and privacy. Companies should also not withhold consumers from opting out of data sharing. Having an option and also a say in this increases trust in the company. A third necessity for clear and trustable consumer communication should be privacy agreements that are easily readable and brief. Often people skip the privacy agreement without even knowing what is entailed in it.

In general we have been sharing our information more than ever, yet the younger generation seems to be more careful with their data. Younger people are more eager to adjust their privacy settings and they are more likely to fill in fake information (GenZ).

Twenty years from now our societal construct will stand upon the ground of IoT (the internet of things). Our news will derive from privacy misunderstandings and defaults. A home will not be burgled by a smashed window or a cracked front door, but by hackers getting in to your smart- lock
at the front door. A war will not take place at the battlefield, but behind a
screen. Your smart-car will not get stolen by messing with the wires (as how it happens in movies) but by messing with your data. Crimes will be executed on the internet in the future, with big impact on our reality. The way people can commit these crimes of violating privacy is because people use objects and data to fulfil their safety needs and overall lifestyle.

Personal data will become an economic value of the highest from, that we can trade, buy and steel. Marketplaces will arise where you cannot only buy personal data, but also see who is buying your data and what they are doing with it. And when data is stored in a massive computer that is connected to your everyday objects, there is a lot to be sold, and your privacy will be at stake. But with the society changing, there will also come a new form of legislation wholly focused on the internet of things, privacy and data settings. Now, these legislations are minimally existing, and even minimally executed.

These new legislations will also form a new job opportunity for law enforcement since people with high involvement in technology and knowledge about technology are needed. These new legislations are our future of internet privacy and safety. The systems to keep our data safe will always improve, yet legislation will keep these systems from breaking. The internet of things will create a new society where technology is not so much a handy tool, but it will be the essence our society revolves around.

The upcoming of new technologies such as IoT will not eliminate jobs, well sure a few. But they will also create a humongous amount of new jobs, because these appliances will need their human operated software updates, and we are the ones creating these machines and objects. The internet of things will be everywhere in the next twenty years, among other technological improvements. If you look at the past twenty years, and focus on the technological revolution you may notice that the first smart Iphone only came out in 2007, now, twelve years later we cannot even imagine our lives without one. In twenty years we may cannot imagine our lives without a smart fridge. We may not even use our keys anymore to open our doors, but devices such as phones.

Our privacy will turn in to the most valuable thing in our lives, it will be protected by laws and legislations but also by better systems within the internet of things. This will be a new era where almost everything about your digital trace will be known by marketeers. There will be a new transformation in media literacy, where we expand our knowledge and critique to the place where we can highly examine advertisements and media content. This future will be pleasurable for a crowd that derives energy from technology, screens and an always faster becoming world. Yet the people who find technology draining and like to emerge in day to day activities will face a struggle within this. This scenario will probably be the future, if you look at how fast the technology evolved in the last twenty years.

The future is always frightening, it is in our nature to be scared of the unknown. There might be people who will not adore this change in society at all and may even despite it. Yet this will have an impact on everyone, both positive and negative. However it does not exclude analogue activities, we are still able to listen to birds in twenty years (well, if climate change is dealt with) and we are still able to garden, write and read. As long as we as humans search our natural balance and embrace ourselves with that thing that makes us feel the most pure-human form, may that be technology, may that be a book. As long as we fight to keep this balance, our human nature will never be threatened.

Creative Business student | Content Specialist at Vigouroo 📍Utrecht.