Smart Home Needs Smart Law: Privacy Road Blocks We Need To Watch

It seems like everyone –– Forbes, Google, Time Warner Cable, Rogers, LG, Samsung –– is ready to hop aboard the smart home bandwagon this year, but are we sure we want to go down that road at this point?

Smart home technology does promise to make our lives simpler and more convenient than ever, but some are wondering if our society, or at least our laws, have not yet laid down the necessary privacy rights to prepare us for a day when hackers or government agencies are as able to control our lives as we are.

An article on spells out some of these concerns: why we should be more worried and how we need to make sure we can trust this new technology before we invite it into our homes.

“The information that's available in a smart home can be really extraordinarily detailed," said Rebecca Jeschke, media relations director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "The technology is such that it won't be too long before you can look at somebody's power usage and be able to know when they opened the fridge or how much food was in it. And that's without a wired fridge. That's just the power."

The abuse of power by the authorities is one of the biggest concerns expressed in the article, especially considering how many requests for user information our phone companies and Internet Service Providers are already getting from law enforcement and government agencies, while our computers are right in our pockets.

The article refers to a New York Times piece from July 2012 that spelled out how bad the problem had gotten even nine months ago:

“AT&T alone now responds to an average of more than 700 requests a day, with about 230 of them regarded as emergencies that do not require the normal court orders and subpoena,” The New York Times reported. “That is roughly triple the number it fielded in 2007, the company said. Law enforcement requests of all kinds have been rising among the other carriers as well, with annual increases of between 12 percent and 16 percent in the last five years. Sprint, which did not break down its figures in as much detail as other carriers, led all companies last year in reporting what amounted to at least 1,500 data requests on average a day.”

Some lawmakers are fighting on these fronts already. Let’s hope they win some big battles before the technology becomes too ubiquitous and some dangerous legal precedents are set.

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