Power Up: The Imperative of Knowledge and Encryption in the IoT-Charged Reality. By Anna Nadolna

IoT privacy

Anna Nadolna integrates cyber security into her four part series showcasing revolutionary concepts and technologies driving disruptive innovation. ‘Power Up’ consolidates industry insights on knowledge and encryption in our immersive IoT-Charged Reality. 

There’s a scene in Gus van Sant’s ‘Good Will Hunting’ (1997) where the whip-smart-Mensa-type-slacker-kid name Will is approached by the NSA and confronted with the question he is told to ask himself “Why shouldn’t I work for the N.S.A?”, Will then says “That’s a tough one, but I’ll take a shot” and gives one of the best monologues in the history of cinema. It’s totally worth revisiting even if you’ve seen it and recall that the kid concluded the interview with a disarming “I’m holdin’ out for somethin’ better” line.

The movie, based on Matt Damon’s and Ben Affleck’s screenplay, precedes the Snowden era by nearly 17 years but still hasn’t lost any of its subversive importance when it comes to governments, code breaking, Internet freedom and issues of privacy and security. Even the focus hasn’t shifted that much, I mean, it’s still all about oil and information, right?

With constant revelations on surveillance stunts including David Cameron’s plans to ban end-to-end encryption tools (Gone, WhatsApp; Gone, iMessage; etc.), I had a rare opportunity to listen to talks on privacy and security in the “Internet of Things world”, from corporate, legal and activist perspective.

On 17th March I attended the joint Innovate UK and CW Legal SIG event in London with keynotes – “Privacy in the IoT world” & “Contracting for IoT” – from Korolyn Rouhani-Arani, Senior Associate at Taylor Wessing and Dr Ian Walden, Professor of Information and Communications Law, Queen Mary University of London. Later that day I went for a meeting with Cory Doctorow – science fiction author, activist and co-editor of the blog Boing Boing – organised by 3Beards (the guys behind London’s Silicon Drinkabouts and other tech/start-up/creative mashups).

Referring to the Working Party’s findings, Korolyn Rouhani-Arani stated that “the market is still developing and the possibilities of what can be done with the IoT cannot yet be quantified”, making it clear that the IoT involves far more than just fridges and washing machines sending updates to our mobile devices.

The IoT-charged reality involves a “complex mesh of stakeholders/controllers” resulting in the elusiveness of “allocation of legal responsibility” and a threat of “users becoming subjects to third party monitoring”.  It’s also data bouncing from “things” during “interactions between objects, individuals and the backend systems which means that data flows in ways that the classical tools may not be able to deal with.”

The notion of consent surfaced during both talks: Rouhani-Arani referred to consent as the WP’s “preferred method and legitimate ground for data processing” and she named several solutions including “privacy proxy (allowing users to express preferences/consent at every point that their data interacts with IoT sensors); sticky policies (the ones that stick to data as it goes from one party to another) and the pragmatic “follow the security by design approach”.

Dr Ian Walden admitted that contracting for IoT “will be a mess”, “good for lawyers” but still a mess as he deconstructed Google’s Nest that perfectly illustrates the “one product, a thousand contracts” reality. He also added that “consent is meaningless in IoT”, and while it’s very important in social media regulations, these are two “different environments”.

As the “regulatory landscape continues to evolve and adapt”, the laws on data protection, privacy and cybersecurity across the public and private sectors have to catch up – not just on a national but global level in the ‘connected world’. But how do we overcome this impasse and protect ourselves right now if “we are headed for a long age of IT-powered feudalism, where property is the exclusive domain of the super-rich, where your surveillance-supercharged Internet of Things treats you as a tenant-farmer of your life, subject to a licence agreement instead of a constitution?” (Cory Doctorow, Guardian).

I thought I would ask the author of this statement himself as I headed to Shoreditch to hear his talk on books, cybersecurity, hacking, surveillance, supercomputers in our pockets “designed to disobey their owners” and the “socially determined privacy” that is not about “secrecy but about YOU deciding WHO knows your business.”

So what is the answer? POWER UP, KNOWLEDGE UP. Doctorow suggested supporting organisations that defend civil liberties in the digital world like EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) and Open Rights Group, he also thinks that “encrypting our stuff is a good idea” and mentioned some of the encrypted messaging apps like Cryptocat (check out Nadim Kobeissi’s new creation Peerio), Wickr and TOR (free software and an open network that helps you defend against traffic analysis etc.)

I’m no hacker nor Internet activist, but my vision of fundamental principles of freedom, culture and society derives from masters like Foucault, Rorty and Baudrillard, so the idea of shifting the power even in the slightest degree from the ones that exercise any form of oppressive control in the name of the state, status quo, economic or political interests etc., seems not only compelling but necessary.

I guess it’s easy to forget among all the tech jargon and noise, that the digital/Internet/IoT-labelled reality is not some kind of parallel universe but OUR reality. Let’s keep a check on it.


About The Author
Anna Nadolna is Events and Marketing Executive at CW

Follow her source of inspiration: @StuffandStories

Connect on LinkedIn: uk.linkedin.com/pub/anna-nadolna/74/b49/a97


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