Normative Challenges of Identification in the Internet of Things: Privacy, Profiling, Discrimination, and the GDPR

Paper by Sandra Wachter: “In the Internet of Things (IoT), identification and access control technologies provide essential infrastructure to link data between a user’s devices with unique identities, and provide seamless and linked up services. At the same time, profiling methods based on linked records can reveal unexpected details about users’ identity and private life, which can conflict with privacy rights and lead to economic, social, and other forms of discriminatory treatment. A balance must be struck between identification and access control required for the IoT to function and user rights to privacy and identity. Striking this balance is not an easy task because of weaknesses in cybersecurity and anonymisation techniques.

The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), set to come into force in May 2018, may provide essential guidance to achieve a fair balance between the interests of IoT providers and users. Through a review of academic and policy literature, this paper maps the inherit tension between privacy and identifiability in the IoT.

It focuses on four challenges: (1) profiling, inference, and discrimination; (2) control and context-sensitive sharing of identity; (3) consent and uncertainty; and (4) honesty, trust, and transparency. The paper will then examine the extent to which several standards defined in the GDPR will provide meaningful protection for privacy and control over identity for users of IoT. The paper concludes that in order to minimise the privacy impact of the conflicts between data protection principles and identification in the IoT, GDPR standards urgently require further specification and implementation into the design and deployment of IoT technologies….(More)”.