Tell the Smart House to Mind Its Own Business!: Maintaining Privacy and Security in the Era of Smart Devices

By Kathryn McMahon

Abstract

Consumers want convenience. That convenience often comes in the form of everyday smart devices that connect to the internet and assist with daily tasks. With the advancement of technology and the “Internet of Things” in recent years, convenience is at our fingertips more than ever before. Not only do consumers want convenience, they want to trust that their product is performing the task that they purchased it for and not exposing them to danger or risk. However, due to the increasing capabilities and capacities of smart devices, consumers are less likely to realize the implications of what they are agreeing to when they purchase and begin using these products.

This Note will focus on the risks associated with smart devices, using smart home devices as an illustration. These devices have the ability to collect intimate details about the layout of the home and about those who live within it. The mere collection of this personal data opens consumers up to the risk of having their private information shared with unintended recipients whether the information is being sold to a third party or accessible to a hacker. Thus, to adequately protect consumers, it is imperative that they can fully consent to their data being collected, retained, and potentially distributed.

This Note examines the law that is currently in place to protect consumers who use smart devices and argues that a void ultimately leaves consumers vulnerable. Current data privacy protection in the United States centers on the self-regulatory regime of “notice and choice.” This Note highlights how the self-regulatory notice-and-choice model fails to ensure sufficient protection for consumers who use smart devices and discusses the need for greater privacy protection in the era of the emerging Internet of Things. Ultimately, this Note proposes a state-level resolution and calls upon an exemplar state to experiment with privacy protection laws to determine the best way to regulate the Internet of Things.