The "Internet of Things": Opportunities and Dangers
The "Internet of Things" is around the corner. What does this mean
for us as software developers? And what are the dangers and
opportunities when it comes to Freedom, Privacy and Security?
We live in interesting times. The time that a "computer" was a room
full of electronics, or even a beige box on a desk is behind us.
Computers are everywhere. And there will soon be even more of them,
in even more places.
The IoT provides us with wonderful opportunities to remotely monitor,
manage and automate. And we as a software development community are
the ones building it.
But security is too often an afterthought (if that). Now that the IoT
is around the corner, security is not just something that impacts
those beige boxes on our desks -- or the smartphones we carry around
-- but also the medical devices that monitor our health and keep us
alive, the automobiles we drive, the electronics that monitor our
homes, and the public infrastructure we depend on. It now impacts
public safety, human life, privacy, freedom and democracy.
Who is responsible for making sure the systems and devices that make
up the IoT are under the control of their users? Whether we like it
or not, the responsibility for ensuring freedom, privacy, security,
and (digital) civil rights rest on our shoulders. So instead of
asking ourselves (as we usually do) "can we do this?", we should ask
ourselves "should we do this?
We need development practices that take security into account. We
need to build systems that are secure from the ground up. And we need
Free Software to make sure that the answer to "who controls our
computers?" -- including the IoT -- is "the users".
But we also need relevant authorities to ensure policies and laws
mandate privacy and security and ensure open standards. And we need
public awareness of the impact of the IoT on -- and the importance of
-- privacy and security.
The IoT is on its way. It's up to us to build it right. And to have
lots of fun along the way.