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Consumer Privacy and the Internet of Things

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Information Technology
Wordcount: 1484 words Published: 8th Feb 2020

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While the new buzzword in the internet world today is “SMART” (Efe, Sksoz, Haneciolu & Yalman, 2018, 35), there is still some question as to how smart these devices are purchased, installed and maintained with respect to personal privacy and security.  Cyber-attacks on these Internet of Things (IoT) devices are on the rise with a 600% increase in attacks between 2016 and 2017 alone  (ISTR, 2018, p. 9).  Yet, the industry is exploding with a market expected to soon approach two trillion in revenue (Lindsay & Woods & Corman, 2016, p. 1), and over seventy billion devices by the year 2020 (Tweneboah-Koduah, Skouby and Tadayoni, 2017, p. 170).  Two hundred billion according to the estimates from Intel (citation).  But according to Symantic Security (NortonOnline, n.d.), more functionality and more devices just means more risk.  A risk to identity, privacy and security.  Does knowing a consumer’s current device settings covary with nobody is home?  Is network login information visible on the device?  What personal data is stored on a voice activated assistant? 


Why consumers are buying so much of something so risky and the gap between what is real and what is only imagined (Lindsay et al., 2016, p. 2).   Over hyping of these products to consumers (Santos and Sales, 2018, p. 294) could be one explanation of the reason for this paradox.   This would potentially invoke Affective Choice which is mostly independent of the typical cognitive operations used to logically derive a purchasing decision (Mittal, 1994, para. 6).  Another could be that consumers are not sufficiently informed that they can make a valid judgement.  This would in effect be disabling the contrasting cognitive choice method to affective choice referred to as Information Processing.  A third reason could be that these Smart technologies possess an inelastic demand to risk and consumers are simply willing to take the privacy risk in return for the value that IoT offers.  This research hopes to uncover some answers as to why the adoption of Smart devices continue to advance at a rate that appears to be so far ahead of the battle to secure these devices from cyber criminals.  The methods will be mixed, incorporating both quantitative and qualitative measures to address these possibilities.

Research Questions

  1. Are consumers aware of the security risks exposed by the use of IoT or Smart devices that connect to the Internet?
  2. Would greater awareness of the security risks exposed by the use of IoT or Smart devices make a difference in consumer choices or actions?
  3. Do any consumer Internet of Things or Smart devices offer warnings or instructions to users concerning the possible risk of the device being compromised or hacked, resulting in some level of risk to personal privacy and security?

Significance of the Study

The future of these devices could be resting on the efforts to form stronger public policy, laws and regulations around their security for consumers (Santos and Sales, 2018, p. 295).   The first law addressing security for consumers with Internet of Things or Smart devices, was passed by California in May of 2019 labeled SB327 (Jennings, 2019).  New federal IoT legislation called the “Internet of Things (IoT) Cybersecurity Improvement Act of 2019” was introduced by Senator Mark Warner in March of 2019 (Warner, 2019) to require stricter security standards on manufactures of these devices.  Stronger knowledge of why consumers make decisions around these Internet of Things would help to direct these new legislation efforts by lawmakers while significantly benefiting the manufactures of these devices to know more on how best to potentially address these security concerns. 

Definition of Terms:

Affective choice – The method used by a consumer to purchase something outside of a strong consideration of quality or limitations of the product and more over simply because they like it or just want it.

Intellectual Processing – The method used by a consumer to purchase something by logically comparing attributes of cost, capability and concerns to those of other similar options.

BotNet  -  A roBotic Network of compromised computers or devices.  The network can be international in scope.  They have traditionally been used to execute a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack on an internet victim.   The attack is performed when these compromised computers are all instructed to try and communicate with a given IP or range of IP addresses. 

Consumer – An end user who is not necessarily the buyer, who makes personal use of an IoT device and/or service.



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