The Data of Smart Devices – Privacy, Transparency, and User Info

In less than a decade, the Internet of Things (IOT) has progressed from a smart fridge that tells you when you’ve run out of milk to a smart doorbell that can help law enforcement crack a case. What about your Roomba when it’s plugged in and charging, your digital assistant when you’re not interacting with it, and smart TV it’s turned off? If you’ve ever wondered what signals your smart devices are sending when they’re not in use, you’re not alone. But as GDPR laws in Europe and privacy laws gain ground in the US, it’s important to remember the reason there’s been an uptick. The collection and use of user’s Data collected, preserved, and given, often without consent, to the powers that be. So, how much does your smart device know about you? Before we dive into that question, let’s begin at the beginning, and look at the questions asked when designing IoT projects. Designing for the Internet of Things


It’s difficult to collect Data if you don’t know how to get it from one location to another. But within that question, you have to consider bandwidth speeds, types of sensors in use, various devices, and how to bring it all together in the central collection system. Enter HTTP and MQTT. HTTP, we know. It’s how our search engines know what to search for when we enter the URL in our search bar. MQTT goes a bit further and is more for machine-to-machine messages (hello, smart devices) which collects and redirects the information to be sent out to the systems that will use the Data to deliver what customers want or think they need.


To have a historical record from which to make predictions, IoT and smart devices will need to collect, collate, and store information in real-time when possible. Write speed is another consideration, and making sure everything is coordinated and aligned either in real-time or time-stamped helps determine the best way to store Data as it comes in.


Analysis helps determine what should be done next with the information and using historical Data helps provide value for users whether the device is performing a task or absorbing collected information in its environment. However, one thing to consider is the incredible volume of Data created every minute of every day. It has to go somewhere, and someone is reading it whether it’s to improve a product, deploy a marketing campaign tailored to the end user, or the government requires it to help in solving or preventing crimes. And that’s where things get a bit darker, and transparency becomes opaque.

Without Consent: The Convenience of Smart Devices and the Lack of Data Privacy

According to a TechCrunch article, neither Big Tech nor smart device manufacturers have been forthcoming about how your Data is collected and used. Smart devices in your home help you cook, clean, make grocery lists, tell you who’s at the door, help decide what TV show to watch, and play your favourite music, all at the push of a button or the sound of your voice.

But if you think the human-to-machine exchanges are between you and the machine, think again.

Just a few weeks ago, reports of Amazon’s Ring video doorbell giving government information on users’ Data came at a time when consumers are savvier than ever about their privacy. So, while the Internet of Things and Smart Devices have made our lives easier in some ways, they’re not as innocuous as say the original vacuum, refrigerator, or television’s earliest technologies once were.

However, in the last few years, transparency reports have increased. These reports disclose the number of legal law orders given over the course of six months to a year. But some of the bigger companies haven’t followed suit and are in close cooperation with over 2,000 police departments around the US. The problem isn’t that the information is being submitted willingly to the departments or government officials, but that the user rarely if at all knows about it.

If you’re interested in Digital Analytics, Computer Vision, Advanced Analytics, Data Science, Machine Learning or Robotics just to name a few, Harnham may have a role for you.

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