Last week, the European Commission published the results of last year’s public consultation on the Internet of Things.
The whole consultation boils down to this:
There is no consensus on the need for and the scope of public intervention in the field of IoT.
Surprising, isn’t it? As far as public consultations go, this report nonetheless offers a good perspective on the broad range of opinions that exist with different stakeholders on IoT matters. The two major positions, predictably between industry and consumer protection entities, are well captured:
A large part of industry – backed by several individual respondents and academics – questioned the legitimacy of public intervention in a sector which is still in its infancy. They claim that IoT technologies and applications should develop further before appropriate policy measures can be devised. The existing legal framework including data protection and competition rules, as well as safety and environmental legislation are already protecting the end-user. In their view, ongoing standardisation work on identification, IoT architecture or security will foster a competitive and safe development of IoT applications.
They also stressed that inappropriate governance will raise barriers to investment and innovation, or would be useless in case the market developed in a way different than foreseen. […]
By contrast, many individual respondents backed by civil society and consumer associations claimed that economic considerations are secondary when fundamental rights like privacy, security, and other ethical issues are at stake. End-users’ rights and autonomy should receive full protection in an IoT context. They underlined the risk that the IoT market would not develop in a competitive way and that consumers may get locked in certain technologies and / or by certain players. In their view, IoT specific rules should be developed and enforced to control the development of IoT technologies and markets. They conclude that a multi-stakeholder platform, securing appropriate representation of civil society, is needed to address IoT governance issues.
I’m still in the process of developing an opinion about the consultation, as there are some obvious blind spots in even how the consultation was designed. For instance, there’s still no mention of how to deal with data derived from the public (arguably, that’s an Internet-wide point. What is A Public on the Internet? But it’s even more pressing when talking distributed sensor arrays) or the sheer insanity of thinking current ToS and license regimens in conjunction with traditional object purchases.1 And that is not even beginning to work on the weird scenarios we are bound to witness.