Data Security in a Growing ‘Internet of Things’

17 April 2016

You lock your doors, set your alarm, shred unnecessary papers with personal information on them, but did you know that your connected devices could make all your preparations useless?

Last year, owners of Samsung Smart TVs found themselves faced with a worrisome reality nestled deep within their televisions’ privacy policy. In the section discussing the TV’s voice recognition functionality, which it uses to listen and respond to voice commands, was the following statement: “Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party through your use of Voice Recognition.”

The discovery of that disclosure outraged many Smart TV owners, who worried their conversations were being converted into data that could potentially be stolen and used to commit identity theft or fraud. All it would take, they feared, would be a phone call with their doctor or credit card company, or even a seemingly innocuous conversation about birthday plans, and their financial or personally identifying information would be up for grabs.

As concerns flared, Samsung Canada issued a statement to Global News reassuring consumers that it takes careful steps to protect the information they collect, and that it never retains or sells voice data to third parties. Still, the ordeal brought data security to the front of public consciousness, prompting many to wonder just how much personal data they were willing to give up for the convenience of cutting-edge technology.

A Growing Concern

In the year that followed, countless other devices in the growing “Internet of Things” have been associated with similar questions. Popular smartphone apps ask for permission to access users’ microphones and location data even when they’re not open. Even lifestyle accessories, such as connected fitness trackers, thermostats and even refrigerators, have given consumers pause, as they collect and store data about our daily activity. In many cases, a close look at their privacy policies reveals a line similar to Samsung’s, where the companies reserve the right to send data along to third parties.

A recent estimate by Cisco Canada predicts that there will be close to 50 billion devices connected to the Internet by 2020.

“The amount of information that will be generated will be 50-fold in terms of our digital universe,” Victor Woo, general manager of the “Internet of Things” for Cisco Canada, told Global News. “We’re estimating approximately 40 zettabytes of information.”

These products are all designed to use the Internet to provide more powerful services. For example, as Woo explained, “Wearing a Fitband or perhaps a shirt that monitors my heartbeat or my blood pressure, I can tie that in to my personal regiment for exercising or tie it into a medical record in terms of my physician’s prescribed physical activity in terms of how I want to work out.”

While no one can doubt the impressive potential of networked devices, consumers can’t help but worry about the security of so much personal data stored outside their control.

Plus, with another major data breach making headlines every few months, these concerns are constantly being multiplied. It’s simple math: With more of our data out there, there are more chances it could be compromised, no matter how careful we are. Is this fear the price of admission to a connected world?

Protecting your Identity

While IoT device manufacturers are working tirelessly to improve data privacy, we know it’s unrealistic to avoid using connected items until their security has been perfected – if, in fact, a perfect solution can even exist. That’s why Identity Guard Canada offers credit monitoring services, to help augment your identity theft protection at a time when it has become impossible to keep an eye on all of your data.

While you protect your identity by locking your doors, setting your alarm and shredding unnecessary documents, let us monitor your credit files and notify you of certain activity that may indicate fraud. To learn more, contact us today!