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Will your smart kitchen appliances spy on you?

In the future, the fridge, the toaster and the microwave will all inform on you. They’ll be ‘smart’ gadgets, you see.

As well as being able to tell you when the pak choi is nearing its expiry date, the fridge will also keep a record of what you’re eating, how much processed cheese you’re powering through. The toaster will know roughly when you get up in the morning and the microwave knows what time you’ll get back from work, ready for your next helping of delicious Rustler’s. All of which sounds perfectly innocent at the moment.

The EU’s public consultation on ‘the Internet of Things’ is looking to address how data retrieved by connected household devices can be stored and resulting privacy issues around them.

Being able to check on the contents of your fridge from your phone is all well and good, but there’s an obvious privacy concern here. Assuming that smart devices are communicating with you, on your phone, that information will need to be stored somewhere.

The worry is that, as the European Commission’s report states;

“The information collected by identifiable smart objects supports innovative Internet applications but may also reveal information on individuals, their habits, location, interests and other personal information.

This also applies to persons whose social identity is not known, but might be indirectly revealed (e.g., location, combination of data sources).”

The implication here is that your health insurance provider might decide to up your premiums if it’s discovered, indirectly, that your diet isn’t strictly what you’d call healthy.

Perhaps more worryingly, if you’re going to and from work, patterns could be easily inferred from third party smart kitchen data. It’d therefore be easier for someone to figure out when you’re likely to be out of the house and then rob you, somewhat ironically, of all your expensive connected kitchenware.

The Connected Home: A stalker’s wet dream?

An Internet of Things is also potential stalker gold.

“A car may be able to report the status of its various subsystems using communicating embedded sensors for remote diagnosis and maintenance; home information about the status of the doors, shutters… environmental data may be collected and processed globally for real time decision making.”

So as well as your house being green-lighted for robbery, you’re also clueing any over-interested parties up to when you’re off to the local Tesco.

Factor in the UK Government’s draft of proposals to let police monitor web traffic in real time without a warrant and you’ve got a tasty recipe for Paranoia Soufflé.

As a Humble Citizen of the EU, you can do your bit here; fill in the form and check ‘Strongly Agree/Disagree’ on the sections that require it.

But assuming that the draft proposals go ahead and are given Royal Assent, police officers would be able to check out more than who we talk to on Facebook and what sites we visit. Orwell and Bradbury thought we’d all be monitored by giant TVs in the homes of the future. But in the end it’ll be the damn toasters that squeal on us.

Talkie Toaster image credit: Deviantart user zurtech

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