General Data Protection Regulation is coming into effect next week. Also known as GDPR (EU) 2016/679, it is a regulation in EU law on data protection and privacy for all individuals within the European Union. A directive established in 1995 to address the export of personal data outside the EU, the GDPR came about in a time that is so vastly different from the data-driven world we live in now, so to say that change was due is an understatement.
I remember back in early 2015; I wrote an article called The Future Is Bright, The Future Is IoT. In it, I argued that as amazing as all these advancements in technology are; it is crucial that privacy and security are not after-thoughts or handovers. Consumers should have peace of mind and trust in their device and not feel like they are either for the advancements in technology or against them.
It seems every year or so the topic of privacy attaining to wearable tech devices comes into question. It is in that moment that the excitement of having the latest gadget is slightly damped with worry when the penny drops that not many people are not taking into account that the more devices connected to the internet the higher the risk to our safety and security. When the issue is debated, there are always two camps; those who are happy to give it all up for that connected piece of technology and those who question whether they are giving up too much. I always thought that as wonderfully convenient as wearable technology is, it doesn’t make sense to wait for a catastrophe to happen first before the powers that be decide to lock privacy and security down with strict guidelines. Then like cold water on an unsuspecting face, the Cambridge Analytica and Facebook ‘catastrophe’ happened.
If It’s Connected, It’s Exposed
The argument that “only after disaster can we be resurrected” (Chuck Palahniuk) springs to mind everytime I think of the Cambridge Analytica and Facebook saga. The fact that our data is continuously being collected through our mobile phones and wearable devices like an activity tracker or a smartwatch, it is no secret that the potential for security breaches has always existed. Our data has, for a long time, been vulnerable to companies unethically but legally using it without our consent.
As our dependence on connected technology grows, I strongly believe that the security of our data should not be treated as a learning experience or added after the fact. That is why it is important that we, the consumer, have a reliable authority that we can turn to should we need too. It is this authority that will be responsible and accountable when it comes to making sure that safety is always at the forefront of (wearable) tech companies.
“We are moving towards a more granular control of what exactly we want to share and how much”
With the GDPR finally coming into effect in Europe on 25th May 2018, some major key players have been amending their settings. This suggests that what we can access and do with our data will soon differ between Europe and the US. So what does this mean in the long run? Well, Sophie Charara from Wareable explained in an article, that we are moving towards a more granular control of what exactly we want to share and how much. “Some sections will only apply to certain countries where these new rights – like the rights to object to data processing for marketing – are coming into play,” she said.
As change promises to even out the playing field, the words of Sun Microsystems’ CEO Scott McNealy “Privacy is dead” uttered back in 1999 no longer haunt me as much as they once did. Especially since big companies like Facebook and Google are now feeling the pressure to change their ways, but whether this will be for the greater good remains to be seen. As our hyper-connected world continues to change direction, the modifications of the GDPR could mean that our security and privacy will no longer be the sacrificial lamb to the tech industry and that owning a wearable will not automatically seal our privacy fate.
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