Your Freezer Is A Rat

Let’s go to the land of creepy this morning.  A couple of things have come out over the last month which transported me there and I thought I’d invite you along for the ride.

Refridgerator with character

(Photo credit: magnetbox)

The first is a study from the folks at IDC Retail Insights and the second comes from TRUSTe.  Both deal with a topic we’ve discussed here in the screed from time to time: data and privacy.

How would you feel about your freezer ratting you out to your doctor about your nightly three scoops of ice cream?  It’s a possibility, you know.  As the “Internet Of Things” becomes a reality, the same smart appliance that lets you know the ice cream is nearly empty and which adds it to your digital shopping list can also report in the frequency and rate of the product’s depletion.  To whom?  Your doctor, your insurance company, or to anyone else that buys the data.  That makes me uncomfortable (not that I eat ice cream any more) and apparently I’m not alone:

When researchers told the survey respondents that their Web-enabled devices could collect data, the vast majority — 87% — said they were concerned about the type of personal information gathered. Almost the same proportion — 85% — said they would want to know more about data collection before using “smart” devices… Just 14% were comfortable sharing such information with ad companies, while only 19% felt okay about allowing market researchers to access the data.

That’s from the Media Post report on the TRUSTe study.  I believe that many companies entering this space are of the “ask for forgiveness” mindset instead of the “get their permission.”  That’s unfortunate and might lead to some nasty backlash, as the IDC study found:

According to the survey results, and contrary to popular belief, only a minority of consumers are openly disposed to the “give to get” exchange of private information for guidance dependent on a retailer having access to such information – 14% are privacy spenders and 15% are open guidance seekers… Shoppers split about equally into two groups, those who choose privacy over relevancy and those who prefer relevancy over privacy, 53% to 47%. But by nearly a two-to-one margin, 62% to 38%, more consumers believe that they do not have enough control over their privacy in the hands of the retailers they shop.

So while the advantages of the technology, both for consumers and for businesses, are evolving, I’m of the opinion that a strong statement about privacy needs to come from the folks who are pulling together these collection devices.  We’ve seen the FTC cite Google, Facebook, and others for gathering data without permission and consumers are even more attuned to the practice now than they were years ago.  Why not get better data in the open instead of asking our appliances to rat us out without our permission?  Thoughts?

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