Responsibilities and ethics of the Internet of Things in the modern world

23 Oct

The Internet of Things (IoT) keeps things connected, but with seemingly endless reports of devices being hacked or used for spying on users, the state of responsible IoT has come into question in recent years. We thought it would be interesting to take a look at just what the situation is in terms of the responsibilities and ethics of IoT in 2018.

All eyes have been on the manufacturers of IoT devices. The general public has a high expectation that devices be made responsibly and to respect user rights. Is this a tall order perhaps, or is this already something that’s well underway?

Media companies, techies, policy makers and industry leaders have all been focused on the responsibilities and ethics in tech over the past few years and how IoT impacts on society.

The lines are blurred

Things tend to get a little tricky when you consider how the Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Machine Learning (ML) must integrate. Systems and devices need to work effectively and seamlessly both physically and digitally for all involved, including users.

Some industry experts propose regulating IoT globally with the intention of protecting human rights. Others think it would be a step in the right direction if users of IoT weren’t treated like infants and limited by the IoT designers. Thus limiting the free will of technology.

What most experts agree on is that users need to know how they interact with technology, how it interacts with them, and the potential risks involved. In short, users need to be more aware of responsible device use just as much as manufacturers of such devices need to pay heed to responsible and ethical device design and implementation.

Radical thoughts and considerations of the Internet of Things

Recent reports on the responsibilities and ethics of IoT have seen thoughts and opinions coming from many industry professionals:

  • Iskander Smit, a Dutch designer, wondered if IoT devices can be created with democratic values.
  • Laura James, a British entrepreneur and technologist, wants to see connected devices that we can actually rely on and where the benefits of the device far outweigh the potential negatives.
  • Luca van der Heide, ethicist and writer believes design goals should shift from ‘invisible’ to ‘transparent’; ‘invasive’ to ‘inclusive’.

One interesting approach suggested by The Trustable Tech is a system proposed to evaluate connected devices concerning the following:

  • Security
  • Transparency
  • Openness
  • Privacy and data practices
  • Stability

IoT connected devices that offer these valuable characteristics and features are those that will be considered the most responsible and ethical.

While there is still a long way to go before we see the IoT being truly responsible and ethical, there is great progress being seen in the industry. Soon, such technology will be geared towards healthy, responsible, human rights respecting connected devices.

What are your views on the responsibility and ethics of IoT in modern times? We would love to hear your thoughts and opinions regardless of how radical you might believe them to be!

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