Privacy and Security During the Connected Intelligence Era

OpenMarket – September 23, 2014

According to Forbes, consumers are being desensitized to privacy and security concerns due to the ongoing string of breaches in the news and the proliferation of social sharing sites. However, privacy and security will remain a paramount concern as the amount of personal data being collected about consumers explodes as more sensors and intelligent devices are brought online. The dangers and risks of the abuse of this data will flip this status quo on its head.

Mobile Future Forward

This week I’m very excited to be attending Chetan Sharma Consulting’s “Mobile Future Forward” summit in Seattle. As is customary with these events, I was given a “homework” reading list to prepare for the summit. The newest addition to this list is the 2014 paper “Connected Intelligence Era: The Golden Age of Mobile.

The paper builds on the concepts introduced by Chetan Sharma Consulting’s previous papers around connecting and mobilizing everything. It extends this view to include devices that are intelligent, contextually aware of their surroundings, and capable of interacting with each other in order to make decisions without us. After diving into some potential futures for both the connected automotive and connected health markets, the paper discusses some broad cross-market concerns. While I found the entire paper interesting, the part I’d like to investigate more is the talk of the greatest risk of this new Connected Intelligence Era: abuse of the data.

The paper states: “A recent research study found that 80% of connected devices are vulnerable to attacks,” and then goes on to say that “players in the ecosystem will also have to come up with new and better frameworks for dealing with the privacy and security of data.” I agree that these intelligence providers will need to address privacy and security of data. However, what I find interesting is the idea that consumers are becoming desensitized to these data breaches and what it means for these providers.

Limited Fallout

After the recent string of illicit data access stories: Home Depot’s credit card breach, numerous celebrity cloud photos being stolen, Gmail passwords posted online, and the JPMorgan website breach, the fallout doesn’t seem to have significantly altered the current state of affairs for the companies involved.

  • How is Home Depot doing since its huge credit card breach? Its stock is up and forecasts for future of the company have not been materially impacted.
  • What happened when the celebrity photos were stolen and posted online? Some people got upset and have called for the hackers to face justice. Some were indifferent and/or simply blamed the victims. Others just checked out the pics and went on with their day.
  • Even with all the media attention around existing password and secret questions for authentication being insufficient, numerous retailers, finance and payments companies still don’t even employ two-factor authentication to protect consumers assets as seen on

In all of these cases, consumers are still happily doing business and handing over their data to these breached entities. Does this mean that future intelligence providers don’t need to be focused on security and privacy? I doubt it.

Existing Safeguards

First of all, a major reason why the existing breaches don’t cause me to panic, is because a lot of safeguards have already been put in place and much of the potential impact can be undone. If someone gets my credit card info, I have faith that the combination of “unusual activity” detectors, my monthly statement reviews, and the credit card companies’ practice of not holding victims of theft responsible will keep me protected in the event of a data breach.

Greater Responsibility

Nonetheless, as more decision making power is delegated to the growing autonomous network, the risk and potential impact of problems rises dramatically. Instead of someone running up charges on my credit card, I have to fear someone will remotely commandeer my future self-driving car to steal it or to drive me into a tree. Instead of someone finding pictures of me partaking in “shenanigans” during my youth, I have to fear someone gaining access to my entire digital presence and using it to profile me as either a future employment or healthcare risk not worth taking. These are the scenarios that will make security a much bigger issue.

Dealing with these issues will be a delicate balancing act. Clearly laws and regulations will be needed to address these issues, but they must be constructed in such a way as to avoid unnecessarily stunting the growth of the technology. Similarly, protections need to be built into technology to protect us, but not in a way as to break the customer experience to the point that we won’t use them.

There is no easy answer, but luckily thought leaders, industry experts and just plain curious folks are having these discussions now. I look forward to learning more about these issues at Mobile Future Forward later this week.

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