Have you heard about the Internet of things? If it is industry’s great opportunity, it might be the Privacy Officer’s brainteaser over the next few years.

Increasingly objects are becoming “smart”. No human intervention is required to record and communicate data, permitting otherwise unconnected objects to interact with one another.

Objects are being embedded with a variety of sensors. These objects collect information about their environment, their operation, and their interaction with other objects. These devices can communicate with each other and with databases through wireless networks. All the of data that these objects collect and produce becomes fodder for analysis in Big Data projects for understanding complex systems.

Even though human intervention is not required; individuals are often interacting with those objects in some way, such that the information is, at least in part, about those individuals.

As the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) puts it:

“Connected devices can communicate with consumers, transmit data back to companies, and compile data for third parties such as researchers, health care providers, or even other consumers, who can measure how their product usage compares with that of their neighbors. The devices can provide important benefits to consumers: they can handle tasks on a consumer’s behalf, improve efficiency, and enable consumers to control elements of their home or work environment from a distance. At the same time, the data collection and sharing that smart devices and greater connectivity enable pose privacy and security risks.”

For that reason, the FTC is holding a workshop on November 21, 2013 to study the Internet of Things.

FTC will accept submissions on the implications of these developments through June 1, 2013.…