Sparked by the brief mentioning of ‘the internet of things’, I found myself perplexed by the simple fact that there is actually a topic out there, which I happen to be entirely uninformed on.

Thus, I embarked on the challenge to harness a more complete understanding of the topic. As luck would have it, certain aspects of the topic ‘the internet of things’, similarly touched on a discourse that I myself have long been pondering; that of online privacy and the security of our personal information.

Picture of digital elements

What is it?

Let me explain; ‘The Internet of Things’ refers to the impending ability of our devices to wirelessly link to the internet. No longer is our phone the only inanimate object to require a connection, but so does your smart TV, wear-ables, GPS… the list goes on.

Soon enough we will rely on home automation to assess the weather and adjust the heating in our homes accordingly. Our connected devices will be able to communicate with other consumers, health care providers and even third parties such as researchers. If the stats I’ve read are correct, there are already 1.9 billion connected objects worldwide and a projected 50 billion connected devices by 2050.

What does it mean to me?

With companies like Google and GM announcing connected car devices, it’s only natural to question what laws are in place to protect consumer privacy. As yet there is no all-encompassing legislation in the U.S dealing with the use of such data by people other than the ones using these products.

Paranoid much?

There have in-fact already been at least a few ridiculous breaches of personal information in the United States. One of which being with the Fit-Bit, a wireless enabled wearable device. User’s entire logs of personal information such as their diets and exercise routines were automatically uploading to the site, in doing so becoming open to the public. It may sound trivial, but it’s certainly a breach of privacy.

You don’t have a Fit-Bit?

By this point of this article, if you haven’t yet thought about your social media accounts, you really should. In 2013 a social media app titled ‘Path’ settled a lawsuit for $800 000 for mining and storing the personal information. The app (which accumulated over 10 million users worldwide) was designed to be used as a journal, automatically collecting names, phone numbers, addresses, email addresses, dates of birth and even Facebook and Twitter usernames.

The good news

At least South Africans can enjoy some peace of mind thanks to the POPI (Protection of Personal Information Bill), while it has already been signed into legislation; the commencement date is yet to be determined. At least our government has gotten the ball rolling though.

We aren’t out of the woods yet

Further examination however, is still paramount, for you to fully comprehend some of the risks associated with your social media accounts. If only in preparation for your future connected devices, there’s no time like the present time to get security savvy. Knowing which personal information of yours is available to the public could save you from any number of difficult situations.

In the following weeks we will go into more depth detailing some of the security options available in social media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+, so best you keep reading.