February 18, 2015

The Internet of Things and Wearable Technology: Addressing Privacy and Security Concerns without Derailing Innovation

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This paper highlights some of the opportunities presented by the rise of the so-called “Internet of Things” and wearable technology in particular, and encourages policymakers to allow these technologies to develop in a relatively unabated fashion. As with other new and highly disruptive digital technologies, however, the Internet of Things and wearable tech will challenge existing social, economic, and legal norms. In particular, these technologies raise a variety of privacy and safety concerns. Other technical barriers exist that could hold back IoT and wearable tech — including disputes over technical standards, system interoperability, and access to adequate spectrum to facilitate wireless networking — but those issues are not dealt with here. 

The better alternative to top-down regulation is to deal with these concerns creatively as they develop using a combination of educational efforts, technological empowerment tools, social norms, public and watchdog pressure, industry best practices and self-regulation, transparency, and targeted enforcement of existing legal standards (especially torts) as needed. This “bottom-up” and “layered” approach to dealing with problems will not preemptively suffocate experimentation and innovation in this space. This paper concludes by outlining these solutions.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we should not overlook the role societal and individual adaptation will play here, just as it has with so many other turbulent technological transformations.

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