The Internet of Things will make the Internet disappear according to Eric Schmidt of Google.  The Internet will become part of any object around us collecting personal data in a seemless manner which might lead to privacy issues that regulators shall properly address.

The Internet will be all around us

At the end of the World Economic Forum in Davos Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google,  responded to a question about the future of the web with the comment “I will answer very simply that the Internet will disappear” then adding

It will be part of your presence all the time [—] Imagine you walk into a room, and the room is dynamic. And with your permission and all of that, you are interacting with the things going on in the room“.

The growth of the Internet of Things smart technologies will have the consequence that the Internet will be in any object around us.  IoT devices will continuously collect data about individuals and interact in order to provide more efficient and tailored services.

The Internet of Things as hidden privacy threats?

The possibility for Internet of Things devices to collect personal data was the first concern raised by the European privacy regulators in their recent opinion on the Internet of Things.

The lack of control by individuals on how and when personal data is collected and how and when it is used might be a relevant issue in an environment where every object can potentially collect personal data about both its users and the people around them without their knowledge.

How privacy protection can match business needs?

The challenge will be to identify modalities of provision of adequate information to users on the processing of personal data and of collection of individuals’ privacy consent that are market oriented.  Otherwise we risk that privacy compliance becomes a limit to the growth of the Internet of Things.

At the same time regulators might consider to introduce exemptions to privacy regulations in relation to eHealth and telemedicine projects as well as smart city technologies when they believe that there is a prevailing public interest.

The growth of Internet of Things devices will be an interesting challenge for regulators, but there is no doubt that with a market whose value has now been estimated in $ 19 trillion by 2020 no country can afford to miss it.