IoT security vs. privacy: Which is a bigger issue?

When it comes to the internet of things (IoT), security has long been a key concern. But privacy issues could be an even bigger threat.

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Ring

If you follow the news surrounding the internet of things (IoT), you know that security issues have long been a key concern for IoT consumers, enterprises, and vendors. Those issues are very real, but I’m becoming increasingly convinced that related but fundamentally different privacy vulnerabilities may well be an even bigger threat to the success of the IoT.

In June alone, we’ve seen a flood of IoT privacy issues inundate the news cycle, and observers are increasingly sounding the alarm that IoT users should be paying attention to what happens to the data collected by IoT devices.

Predictably, most of the teeth-gnashing has come on the consumer side, but that doesn’t mean enterprises users are immune to the issue. One the one hand, just like consumers, companies are vulnerable to their proprietary information being improperly shared and misused. More immediately, companies may face backlash from their own customers if they are seen as not properly guarding the data they collect via the IoT. Too often, in fact, enterprises shoot themselves in the foot on privacy issues, with practices that range from tone-deaf to exploitative to downright illegal—leading almost two-thirds (63%) of consumers to describe IoT data collection as “creepy,” while more than half (53%) “distrust connected devices to protect their privacy and handle information in a responsible manner.”

Ring becoming the poster child for IoT privacy issues

As a case in point, let’s look at the case of Ring, the IoT doorbell company now owned by Amazon. Ring is reportedly working with police departments to build a video surveillance network in residential neighborhoods. Police in more than 50 cities and towns across the country are apparently offering free or discounted Ring doorbells, and sometimes requiring the recipients to share footage for use in investigations. (While Ring touts the security benefits of working with law enforcement, it has asked police departments to end the practice of requiring users to hand over footage, as it appears to violate the devices’ terms of service.)

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