#CyberFLASH: Privacy watchdog to study impact of personal Internet devices

image-3Connected devices that can track our behaviour and surroundings – often collectively referred to as “The Internet of Things” – have the potential to make our lives more convenient and efficient, and even improve our health. But when those things are tracking us, they are also collecting a great deal of information about our location, shopping habits and other extremely personal details.

As the market for such connected devices grows, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner (OPC) of Canada announced Monday that it is joining a global study of their privacy implications.

The Global Privacy Enforcement Network – which is a joint effort among privacy organizations in many countries including the United States, the United Kingdom, members of the European Union, China, and others – is co-ordinating a worldwide “privacy sweep,” examining connected devices. Canada’s contribution, which will take place this week, will look at health devices such as sleep monitors and fitness trackers. The results will be announced in the fall.

“The Internet of Things” is a buzzed-about phrase that actually covers a wide range of technologies, including Internet-connected cars; “smart” TVs that connect to the Internet and sometimes include voice and gesture recognition; exercise trackers; home security systems; smart meters that monitor energy use in homes; and safety devices to allow elderly or disabled people to contact a caregiver if help is needed, provide medication reminders, and detect falls or other mishaps.

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