A Legal Take on the Top 6 Things You Need to Know About the Internet of Things

A Legal Take on the Top 6 Things You Need to Know About the Internet of Things 2

DLA Piper – IoT is discussed in the media more and more frequently. It has important social, economic and legal implications, most of which are yet to be fully understood.

The following sets out a brief list of things you should know about IoT from a lawyer’s perspective.

  1. IoT is here and it’s changing the way we live and interact with each other. It will change the way consumers interact with suppliers, businesses interact with their employees and each other and government interacts with its customers, employees and contractors.
  2. IoT is about smart ‘things’, which record and transmit data automatically via the internet and without the need for human input. Examples include:
    • fridges that record when you are out of milk and which purchase milk online from a supermarket for you
    • watches that record your heart rate, movement and sleeping patterns and send that data to your smart phone for your review or even to a medical monitoring service
    • building access cards that automatically report to your employer that you are late for work and then set your out-of-office email notice for you when you leave
    • bathroom scales that record and send your weight readings via wi-fi to an app on your phone
    • sensors used in industrial control systems for utilities to predict the maintenance required to provide services to you
  3. IoT could be used to monitor and report on an endless number of compliance and risk issues in the workplace and at home. For example:
    • What if your wearable activity tracker provided information on stress levels to your employer?
    • What if your car could report to your insurance company that you are a bad driver and your insurance premium increases?

On the plus side, IoT can also be used to make life simpler. For example:

  • If you are in an accident, what if emergency assistance was immediately called (if needed) and insurance claims automatically lodged?
  • What if your bin could put itself out when the truck is approaching and the toilet seat could put itself down for select members of the household? Would this completely eliminate marital disharmony?
  1. IoT products automatically collect and transmit data on a scale that we have not seen before. Both suppliers and purchasers need to carefully consider contractual provisions and protections when selling or purchasing IoT enabled products, or incorporating IoT solutions from third parties into their products. What about the telecommunications providers? Where numbering and spectrum are increasingly scarce, and networks configured for specific data types, how will IoT be enabled (and who will pay)?
  2. IoT also gives rise to significant data protection and privacy issues. How the data is collected, transmitted, stored and used is critical, as anyone who can access it will be able to gain an intimate view of almost all aspects of your life. Will the regulatory framework be able to accommodate IoT? Will privacy become more or less important to us in an IoT saturated world?
  3. IoT also gives rise to a myriad of other legal issues, including security, IP and product liability issues. For example, what if your IoT fridge orders too much milk or your IoT medical monitoring watch malfunctions and calls an ambulance every hour (or worse, not at all)? Who should bear the legal risk? Will this be covered by our household or corporate insurance policies?
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