Internet of Things

Kids & Connected Toys

This week Emily McReynolds will be speaking at the Future of Privacy Forum event Kids & the Connected Home. One of the Tech Policy Lab’s current projects focuses on the privacy and security implications of connected toys, Toys That Listen. Follow the discussion on Twitter at #InternetofToys.

Hello Barbie, Amazon Echo, and the home robot Jibo are part of a new wave of connected toys and gadgets for the home that listen. Different than the smartphone, these devices are always on, blending into the background until needed by the adult or child user. We do not yet know all the information our new toys are collecting, storing, or disclosing. With an intended audience of designers and regulators, this project brings an interdisciplinary group of experts together to build a set of consumer protection best practices for design and user control of connected devices in the home.

The potential benefits of household intelligent devices may be real–these technologies claim to increase convenience, cleanliness, and even improve health. In the lab setting, at-home robots have been tested to help individuals with dementia or rehabilitation. But just as the benefits may be game-changing and exciting, the threats of harm will be novel and non-trivial. Attacks on consumer privacy via the Internet are pervasive, and these issues increase where devices record information from inside the home.

Our goal is to preempt privacy problems before they occur. Consumer privacy protection laws have often been reactionary–drafted or amended after privacy was breached and individuals harmed. The Video Privacy Protection Act, for example, was the result of lessons on the dangers of the distribution of an individual’s video rental history. The recent Netflix settlement under the same Act shows that these issues are alive and well today. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) responds to fears adults have about children being online and the new internet-connected toys raise these fears. While legislation like California’s Online Privacy Protection Act has been found to extend from the initial web page privacy policy requirement to apps on devices, the delivery of privacy notices on toys such as Hello Barbie is more difficult to design. With household devices having the ability to collect increasingly detailed information about what we watch, listen to, talk about, or purchase from the comfort of home, now is the time to identify and implement best practices.

Computer Security and the Internet of Things – Faculty Co-Director Tadayoshi Kohno presents at Usenix Enigma 2016

Computers are now integrating into everyday objects, from medical devices to children’s toys. This integration of technology brings many benefits. Without the appropriate checks and balances, however, these emerging technologies also have the potential to compromise our digital and physical security and privacy. Tech Policy Lab Faculty Co-Director Kohno’s talk explored case studies in the design and analysis of computer systems for several types of everyday objects, including wireless medical devices, children’s toys, and automobiles. He discussed the discovery of security risks with leading examples of these technologies, the challenges to securing these technologies and the ecosystem leading to their vulnerabilities, and new directions for security and privacy. Including efforts (in collaboration with UC San Diego) to compromise the computers in an automobile from a thousand miles away, and the implications and consequences of this and other works. He also outlined directions for mitigating computer security and privacy risks, including both technical directions and education.

Toys That Listen and the Internet of Things

Hello Barbie, Amazon Echo, and the home robot Jibo are part of a new wave of connected toys and gadgets for the home that listen. Different than the smartphone, these devices are always on, blending into the background until needed by the adult or child user. We do not yet know all the information our new toys are collecting, storing, or disclosing. With an intended audience of designers and regulators, this project brings an interdisciplinary group of experts together to build a set of consumer protection best practices for design and user control of connected devices in the home. We are grateful to the Rose Foundation Consumer Privacy Rights Fund for funding this work.

Forthcoming in CHI 2017, our study Toys That Listen: A Study of Parents, Children, and Internet-Connected Toys, explored people’s mental models and experiences with these emerging technologies and to help inform the future designs of interactive, connected toys and gadgets.

Our goal is to preempt privacy problems before they occur. Consumer privacy protection laws have often been reactionary–drafted or amended after privacy was breached and individuals harmed. The Video Privacy Protection Act, for example, was the result of lessons on the dangers of the distribution of an individual’s video rental history. The recent Netflix settlement under the same Act shows that these issues are alive and well today. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) responds to fears adults have about children being online and the new internet-connected toys like Hello Barbie raise these fears. While legislation like California’s Online Privacy Protection Act has been found to extend from the initial web page privacy policy requirement to apps on devices, the delivery of privacy notices on toys such as Hello Barbie is more difficult to design. With household devices having the ability to collect increasingly detailed information about what we watch, listen to, talk about, or purchase from the comfort of home, now is the time to identify and implement best practices.

July Tech Policy Happy Hour

Our Thursday, July 8 we will be meeting at The Hideout in advance of Micheal Fertik’s talk on “Making the Most of Your Digital Reputation” at 7:30 pm at Town Hall Seattle.

We will be at The Hideout from 5-7 pm
1005 Boren Ave
Seattle, WA 98104
(206) 903-8480

Tech Policy Lab Distinguished Lecture: Responsible Innovation in the Age of Robots & Smart Machines

Many of the things we do to each other in the 21st century –both good and bad – we do by means of smart technology. Drones, robots, cars, and computers are a case in point. Military drones can help protect vulnerable, displaced civilians; at the same time, drones that do so without clear accountability give rise to serious moral questions when unintended deaths and harms occur. More generally, the social benefits of our smart machines are manifold, the potential drawbacks and moral quandaries extremely challenging. In this talk, I take up the question of responsible innovation drawing on the European Union experience, value sensitive design, and reconsidering the relations between ethics and design.

Jeroen van den Hoven is a professor of Ethics and Technology at Delft University of Technology. He was the first scientific director for 3TU/Ethics and is currently editor-in-chief of Ethics and Information Technology. In 2009 he won both the World Technology Award for Ethics and the IFIP prize for ICT and Society for his work on ethics and ICT.