The Internet of Things will be as corrupt as the companies that control it

October 22nd, 2015

Marcelo Rinesi writing for the Institute for Ethics & Emerging Technologies on the coming wave of “defeat software” in the Internet of Things (IoT):

"The temptation to teach products to lie strategically will be as impossible to resist for companies in the near future as it has been to VW, steep as their punishment seems to be.

[…]

Is your self-driving car deliberately slowing down to give priority to the higher-priced models? Is your green A/C really less efficient with a thermostat from a different company, or it’s just not trying as hard? And your tv is supposed to only use its camera to follow your gestural commands, but it’s a bit suspicious how it always offers Disney downloads when your children are sitting in front of it.

None of those things are likely to be legal, but they are going to be profitable, and, with objects working actively to hide them from the government, not to mention from you, they’ll be hard to catch."

I’ve been pretty hard on the IoT mostly due to dumb, overpriced devices calling themselves "smart" in order to ride the hype and then profit off a hapless public. But, as Nick Statt reported yesterday, Rinesi’s viewpoint is downright dire by comparison, and a warning to government regulators who will fail to see the rise of IoT as they failed to see the rise of the Internet itself. VW was the first to get caught using software to defeat environmental testing, but there’s every reason to believe it won’t be the last.

Yesterday, James Dyson called out rival vacuum makers Bosch and Siemens for what he called behavior "akin to that seen in the Volkswagen scandal." The prodigious inventor and founder of the company that bears his name said "Bosch has installed control electronics into some of its machines to wrongfully increase energy consumption when in use – to cheat the EU energy label." (Both Bosch and Siemens reject the claim.) Three weeks earlier it was Samsung defending itself against lab results that showed its TVs cheating on European energy tests. Samsung, the company who along with the rest of Android OEMs were caught cheating on device benchmarking scores. Samsung, the company that owns SmartThings, a leader in IoT.

When everything we own is smart, how can we be sure our things are also honest?

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