The Rise of the Data Vampires: A Tale of Two Georges

The Internet of Things could deliver us the world of George Jetson with helpful robotic assistants attending to, even anticipating, our every need. Our Internet-connected smart homes would learn our patterns, hear what we say, capture images of what we do and even monitor our vital signs through “wearable” to make our lives simpler, safer and maybe less stressful. Or maybe, just maybe, we are being delivered into the 1984 world depicted by the other George—George Orwell.

I mentioned in my last post that I discovered how this new generation of Internet-enabled, cloud-based IoT devices actually work and their undisclosed purpose to feed corporate Big Data engines. That discovery was behind my epiphany that many of these smart home devices were actually “data vampires”.  What else would you call something that silently sucks personal information from consumers’ homes while posing as benign home automation devices? When I shared this discovery with my friend Randy Schultz one Sunday afternoon in May, he had two responses. “Holy shit! Really?” followed by “We need to write a book about this!”.

And so it began two short months ago. Within days, we had pulled together an outline for a book and, in the ensuing weeks, Randy worked on the book proposal while I wrote an introduction and the first two chapters. The Rise of the Data Vampires: How Google, Facebook, Big Data and the Internet of Things Are Stealing Your Privacy (http://datavampires.com) is ready to be pitched to agents and, ultimately, publishers. This is my first involvement in writing a book. It’s hard work but we feel a commitment to raise the alarm about the promises and perils of the Internet of Things. Data Vampires are not fiction nor do Randy and I wear tin foil hats to protect ourselves from Internet eavesdropping. They are very real and they are heading to our homes in vast hordes. Some Data Vampires have already arrived disguised as Nest (Google) thermostats and Amazon Echo home automation controllers.

The work of writing this book and educating consumers via the Open IoT Foundation about the choices they have is a challenging but important undertaking. Our objective is not to suggest people live off grid in a cave but to be aware of what is entering their homes and to make smart choices. Cohabitation with Data Vampires may be a good choice if the benefits satisfy consumer needs and both parties agree that it is a fair, symmetrical transaction. A bad choice is when consumers have no idea that they opened their doors to Data Vampires.

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