Schmidt, Sethi & Akmajian Blog

Eyes Everywhere - the Internet of Things Tracks All

Posted by Dev Sethi | Mar 19, 2024 | 0 Comments

In our office we have had some interesting conversations lately about the internet of things. 

The internet of things (IoT) describes devices with sensors, processing ability, software, and other technologies that connect and exchange data over the internet or other communications networks. Imagine all the gadgets and devices you use every day—your smartphone, laptop, gaming console, smartwatch, car and even your refrigerator, lights, and thermostat at home. Now, imagine if all these devices could talk to each other over the internet, exchange information, and work together to make your life easier and more efficient. That's the core idea behind IoT.

IoT is essentially about expanding the power of the internet beyond computers and smartphones to a whole range of other things, processes, and environments. These connected devices gather data through sensors, make decisions based on this data, and perform actions to provide a seamless, automated experience. The applications of IoT extend beyond everyday conveniences to fields like healthcare, agriculture, manufacturing, and smart cities, making processes more efficient, reducing waste, and improving quality of life.

So, in short, the Internet of Things is like a big team of smart gadgets and devices working together over the internet to make your world smarter, more connected, and a lot more convenient.

While IoT brings lots of benefits, it is not without it's share of concerns. For this article, I want to focus on privacy concerns. Imagine all these devices constantly collecting data about what you're doing, when you're doing it, and even predicting what you're going to do next.  These devices can gather a lot of personal information about you, which could be a goldmine for data brokers, risk underwriters, advertisers or, worse, hackers and stalkers. If this data falls into the wrong hands, your privacy could be seriously compromised.

A recent New York Times The Daily podcast took a deep dive into how some automakers, GM in particular, deployed a data collecting operation and sold customer information. The result was a sharp increase in auto insurance rates for many customers. My four takeaways:

  1. What data are cars collecting? Information about every trip taken, including distance, locations, start and end times, speed, acceleration, and breaking.
  2. Who received this data? GM appears to have sold this information to LexisNexis and another data broker, Verisk. They in turn sold the data to insurance companies who used it to set premiums.
  3. How did GM get customer's permission? Customers who enrolled in OnStar Connected Services, including Smart Driver, accepted a term buried in the agreement that GM could share their data with GM's partners. GM paid salespeople bonuses for getting people to enroll.
  4. What was the response of drivers who discovered their data was being collected and shared without their knowledge? As you might suspect, customers felt betrayed and confused, with some experiencing serious financial consequences like sharply increased premiums. There has been driver backlash.

Now that the IoT is becoming everpresent, it has become a part of our practice. Immediate investigation and collecting evidence has always been key to our representation of clients. And the internet of things has expanded the universe of possibilities. For nearly two decades we have downloaded "black box recorders" from vehicles post-collision. We are now looking at on board computer systems and driver apps like OnStar, myMercedes, Toyota Connect, HondaLink, and more. Social media/navigation services like Google Maps or Waze provide a trove of location and speed information. And even modern fridges with cameras and scales can tell us what someone consumed in the 24 hours before an event. It is essential that lawyers have a robust understanding of the IoT so we can properly identify and collect important information.

About the Author

Dev Sethi

Dev Sethi litigates and tries a wide-range of complex injury and death cases throughout Arizona. He has Martindale Hubbell's highest rating, AV, and he is listed in "Best Lawyers." Dev is also recognized as an Arizona Super Lawyer in the area of plaintiff's products liability litigation.Dev has been at the forefront of auto product defect litigation. He played a key role in uncovering the Goodyear Load Range E tire scandal and worked to hold Ford Motor Company responsible for the danger posed by their now notorious 15-passenger vans. Dev is currently representing families in product liability suits against the nation's largest corporations including General Motors, Ford, Pentair Pools and Invacare.


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