I’m generally a fan of the excessive, almost camp nature of tech development when vendors and start-ups latch on to a trend. Look at curved or flexible screens, look at the rush to make feature-phone handsets as dinky as possible before the smartphone came in and blew the market to hell. Lovely I’m sure you’ll agree.

I have to draw the line at the exploitation of my beloved telecoms tech, however, when it comes to adding IoT chips and wireless access to everything possible.

Of course this is a CES inspired post, what else could it be. Seriously, CES was a horrendous show this year in many ways. There were some super announcements (the roll-back from the big manufactures of those aforementioned curved screens is one I particularly like), but printing out each IoT press release from the last week would make the annual Yellow Pages doorstop dump look almost environmentally friendly.

Connected fridges, mirrors, breast pumps, toothbrushes and hairbrushes as well as coffeepots, dog toys and probably anything else you can actually imagine but was too silly so didn’t get reported. It’s madness. And like a lot of modern, capitalism driven madness, it’s unsafe. Trackers of the security press in recent months will know this already, and it’s starting to get mainstream business coverage now too.

For an accurate view on this threat, turn to the experts. I’m a big fan of Mikko Hyppönen of F-Secure. He’s a smart guy who earlier this year was damn right about the IoT, CES and the shoddy security we’re all being exposed to whether we like it or not.

That could be that, but another piece of news this week bothers me as well. Couple this pervasive unrequested connectivity of IoT-by-default with this week’s worrying request by major advertising and marketing trade associations in the US to the FCC to reconsider its order mandating opt-in privacy requirements by Internet service providers – and I think we’re in a dangerous situation.

The “opt-in” approval section seems straightforward. “We adopt rules requiring carriers to obtain customers’ opt-in approval for use and sharing of sensitive customer PI (and for material retroactive changes to carriers’ privacy policies). A familiar example of opt-in practices appears when a mobile application asks for permission to use geo-location information.”

Through some backbreaking reading of the US constitution, the organisations believe “The prohibition against the use of... all web viewing history and app usage information, without opt-in consent, unlawfully restrains and unreasonably burdens the ability of [broadband] providers to engage in broad ranges of protected speech”.

They call out home browser use and online content viewing. But when your fridge, your smart home assistant, your car and hairbrush are all connected over Wi-Fi (provided by those ISPs) where does the boundary of “app usage information” begin?

I would not be a happy camper if my ISPs had unfettered access to my home environment, and then could use that data without my consent or possibly knowledge (it may be buried in a T&C document that I, along with literally every other consumer will not have the inclination to spend 5 solid days reading). It will lead to a situation where we:

  • Don’t know what information is being collected
  • Don’t know by who
  • Don’t know who it will be shared with (already opaque)
  • Don’t know why
  • Don’t know how it will be used
  • Don’t know what part of our evolved technological experience will be twisted by marketers who pay to influence it so can’t trust anything to have a genuine interaction anymore (VR headsets in universities advertising to students in the corner of the screen based on what they said to their partner in bed that morning (or the way to work)– not such a far-fetched idea).

I’m going native. Wooden home accessories only from now on. Anyone know a good whittler?