The amount of data created every day is staggering: 2.5 quintillion (that’s 18 zeros) bytes, to be exact. And that number is growing exponentially, thanks to mass deployments of internet of things (IoT) networks and devices. Cisco Systems estimates that by the end of 2019, IoT will generate more than 500 zettabytes of data per year. In the past two years alone, 90% of all the world’s collected data was generated.
If it’s hard to imagine that such staggering volumes of data can be generated so quickly, just look around. There are IoT devices in our homes, vehicles, business offices, hospitals, shopping malls and parking lots and along highways, each generating and collecting data. Myriad sensors, cameras and listening devices collect human-generated data. Such devices are pervasive, and the number of data-capturing sources are making the information collected about us ubiquitous.
Value vs. Privacy
One might say we are human data machines. So, is data the measure of a person? While this is a relatively new phenomena, data has always been available about our activities, likes, dislikes, motivations and more—it just hasn’t been collected, aggregated and analyzed in the way it is today. It’s like we’ve discovered a vast vein of data gold that has always been hidden beneath the surface.
IoT is becoming big business. Yet, the real value of IoT is in the data, as meaningful insights are derived and then leveraged for a business advantage. With artificial intelligence, automation and business intelligence, the more data collected, the smarter the applications become and companies gain more insights, increasing the value of data. However, there are legitimate security and privacy concerns as organizations collect our information, most often without our knowledge.
Data is becoming the currency that drives our economies and a motivation manipulator that impacts our societies, with both good and bad results. If data represents currency, as it helps companies achieve greater revenue and efficiencies, how can consumers be in control of their own data and share in its rewards? How can they make sure their information is not put in the hands of those who want to use it for ill-gotten gains at their expense? These, and other important questions, need answers and solutions that protect consumers, as we look for innovative ways to put a boundary around our personal digital vaults before our data enters the marketplace.
As consumers, do we care that this data is being collected? Is the benefit of receiving free services worth the price of our information? What should consumers do to make sure their data isn’t used in ways they don’t agree to? Perhaps consumers should expect companies to include them in their revenue-sharing. If they want to share in their data monetization, those collecting the data should ensure the data is protected and private, with full data-use transparency.
Data Value Directly Related to Data Integrity
When malicious actors gain access to data, not only does it put us at risk, but it also can lower the value of data. Consider this scenario of a hacker gaining access to data from the insurance company’s network-connected device in your car: The data on that device could have lowered your premium, but the hacker changed the information to show much higher speeds and extreme braking, then threatened you to pay a ransom or risk the hacker sending the altered data to the insurance company. In this case, because the IoT device was hacked, the financial impact of your data changed from a financial advantage to a financial disadvantage. Remember, data value is directly related to its integrity.
There are two important things we must consider regarding IoT data. The first is to consider how the data is being secured. Is it encrypted while in transit? Are encryption and authentication deployed to prevent unauthorized users from accessing data when it is stored at rest? The second consideration is around privacy. How is the data being used and shared? Is sensitive data that we want protected being consumed and shared? Are device manufacturers providing consumers with transparency regarding whether and how their data is being used? Without establishing firm foundations in security, privacy and transparency, the protection and the monetization of our data will continue to be out of our control.