Internet of Things is a convenience that comes at a price, warns expert

Credit: Adobe Stock
Credit: Adobe Stock

By 2023 it is expected that the behaviours of about 40 percent of the world's population will be digitally tracked, with the resulting information being the basis of creating consumer behaviours.

But this comes at a price, says Dr. Dominika Kaczorowska-Spychalska, director of the Centre Mixer of Smart Technologies at the Faculty of Management of the University of Lodz. 

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a digital network of devices that can connect to each other via the Internet. The systematic increase in the number of such devices generates access to vast amounts of data. 

Kaczorowska-Spychalska said: “It is estimated that the global number of such devices will be around 31 billion in four years. This makes it possible to generate a growing stream of better quality data in a shorter period of time.

“IoB combines the technological potential resulting from the IoT with the achievements of behavioural psychology, allowing for in-depth understanding of the collected data. In 2020, Gartner experts recognized it as one of the key trends associated with the digital transformation of the coming years.”

She continued: “The spectrum of possibilities of expliting the potential of IoB is already quite large. Behavioural data are collected by social networking sites, online stores, voice assistants and wearables. All this in order to optimise their operation, adapt to our way of life and interests. Thus, for example. marketing messages can be even more personalized than before, and offered products matched to our daily routines and rituals.”

The possibilities offered by IoB may also be used in the insurance sector, entertainment, but also in medicine, including gerontechnology - to monitor and interpret the life and activity parameters of patients and older adults.

Kaczorowska-Spychalska said: “IoB provides business with the real, not just declared knowledge of the attitudes of consumers, their needs and expectations. On the other hand, consumers receive information that accelerate their decision-making process, increase satisfaction and can improve safety.”

She emphasises, however, that this solution raises concerns about privacy risks for users of devices and solutions that generate behavioural data. 

“Unfortunately, some of them do not realize that their behaviour and decisions are subject to continuous observation and monitoring. Many people who declare their awareness in this regard are willing to offer their data in exchange for additional benefits offered by companies, which is confirmed by results of the first nationwide report 'Digital ethics - Polish consumers and the ethical challenges associated with the development of technology' from 2020. The availability of the options recommended to consumers with certain behaviours unfortunately creates an illusion of choice and leads to a situation, in which they can unknowingly become hostages of their previous decisions.”

She added: “Another problem may be their unethical use in the process of creating purchasing trends to maximise the benefits only on the business side.”

In July and August 2021, Dr. Kaczorowska-Spychalska and Professor Łukasz Sułkowski from the Institute of Public Affairs at the Faculty of Management and Social Communication of the Jagiellonian University conducted a study on the social acceptance of wearable technologies, including those enhanced with AI-based solutions. 

They examined a representative sample of 1,054 adult Internet users with the CAWI method. 61 percent respondents feared that the collected data could be used in ways that would violate their privacy. 64 percent drew attention to the issues of increasing the risk of cyber threats involving obtaining data about individual users, and 57 percent mentioned the potential for unethical use of data on their behaviour, for example manipulation. 

At the same time, however, more than half of the respondents were interested in expanding the functionality of wearables.

Currently there are no accurate data that would describe the dynamics of IoB development in individual European countries. 

Kaczorowska-Spychalska said: “But we can assume that the size of this indicator will affect both the level of popularity of technologically advanced devices and digital maturity of market entities that use behavioural data', she says. She adds that 'we must balance the expected convenience and emerging concerns to decide what value our data hold for us.”

The IoB-themed discussion panel 'Internet of Behavior - New Way of Thinking' prepared by Kaczorowska-Spychalska and Maciej Chojnowski from the Center for Ethics of Technology will take place online on October 6-10 as part of the 16th UN Internet Governance Forum. (PAP)

Author: Agnieszka Gorczyca

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