The ethics of the Internet of Things

From our Relevanza site:

The ethics of the Internet of Things might, at first blush, seem to some to be a bit counter-intuitive.

How could “things” have ethics? And don’t even get us started on the ethics of the Internet.

But, you see, the vast connection to the Internet of objects and tools we use every day — the Internet of Things, which is happening right before our eyes — carries with it some very serious questions of ethics and security and liability and privacy and, well, just exactly how much Internet connectivity is too much Internet connectivity?

Do you want, as a simple example, your refrigerator to alert your grocery store when you run low on milk or eggs? Is okay for your home heating system to establish and log online a regular pattern of your comings and goings? Should your car keep track of your daily stops? (Relax, that’s already happened.) Do you want companies and/or governments knowing how much you workout each week, what you eat, where and what you drink? (Yea, that’s already happening, too.)

These and many other countess question will arise in the coming years as the Internet of Things works its way into daily human existence. If you are concerned about online privacy now through your PCs or mobile devices you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Nine leading universities in the United Kingdom (UK) have been formed into a research consortium to study the ethics of the Internet of Things or IoT, as it’s come to be called.

“The project is part of IoTUK, an integrated £40 million, three-year, (UK) Government programme that seeks to advance the UK’s global leadership in IoT and increase the adoption of high quality IoT technologies and services throughout businesses and the public sector,” according to the IOTUK offices.

“The Hub is a consortium of nine leading universities led by UCL with Imperial College London, University of Oxford, University of Warwick, Lancaster University, University of Southampton, University of Surrey, University of Edinburgh and Cardiff University. The Hub will draw in substantial support and leverage from over 47 partners from industry and the public sector.”

The study consortium will be called the PETRAS Group, an acronym formed by the issues to be studied: privacy, ethics, trust, reliability, acceptability, and security.

“In the not too distant future almost all of our daily lives will be connected, in one way or another, to the digital world,” said Professor Philip Nelson, Chief Executive of the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), which is funding the research to the tune of £9.8 million.

“Physical objects and devices will be able to interact with each other, ourselves, and the wider virtual world. But, before this can happen, there must be trust and confidence in how the Internet of Things works, its security and its resilience. By harnessing our world-leading research excellence this PETRAS research Hub will accelerate IoT technology innovation and bring benefit to society and business.”

Perhaps they can tackle any ethical issues surrounding the toaster with a Twitter account.

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Originally published at on January 14, 2016.

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