Internet of things

An article in the Times on the 9th March, (also the day of BCS's AGM), served as a reminder of why our mission to ‘Make IT good for society’ is so important. 

Researchers in the US looked at 211 smartphone apps for diabetics designed to monitor insulin and blood glucose levels and alert the user to medication times and medical appointments; clearly apps that contain personal data. Only 19 per cent of the apps had privacy policies and just four of the policies said they would ask users for permission to share their data.

It gets worse. About half the apps that had privacy policies shared medical data with third parties, but only just over half of those disclosed the fact in their privacy policies. So only a few per cent of these app developers know or care enough about data protection to adhere to its basic principles.

Within the new BCS strategy we have four ‘challenges’ to campaign on. Personal data is one of them and clearly there is a long way to go in raising awareness among both the developers and the users of smartphone apps.

At least the diabetes apps involve the conscious, if uninformed, involvement of the data subject in their data collection. As we move into the internet of things there will be many cases where this is not so.

I am on the Policy and Public Affairs Board of BCS and last year we commissioned a study, together with IoTUK (a government funded agency), into the implications of IoT for public policy. The study is in three phases: the first looked at some existing IoT applications already in use; the second was a survey and the third is writing up and presenting the results. We expect to get the report, from our research company, Rand Europe, at the end of March.

The survey was carried out among a large sample of BCS Professional members. We wanted a group that would understand the technology and have a good grasp of the policy issues around IoT. We were not disappointed and the Rand researchers have been able to extract a number of themes which will help us in both developing the personal data challenge and refining BCS policy in this area.

If you would like to get involved in our future work on IoT please respond to this blog or email me direct at roger.marshall@bcs.uk   

June 2019
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