The Internet of Things and Data Retention Policies

Using Internet of Things (IoT) devices can be beneficial and productive. However, it’s important to understand how everything works. To start, here is a definition of the IoT.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines IoT as: “the networking capability that allows information to be sent to and received from objects and devices (such as fixtures and kitchen appliances) using the Internet“. Popular examples of IoT include things like the Nest thermostat, lights, automatic pet feeders, cars, speakers, etc. Basically, “smart” anything is probably part of the IoT.

The potential with IoT is enormous. For example, benefits of the Nest thermostat include regulating house temperatures. This means not keeping an empty house heated. Essentially, it’s a way to monitor your usage, make predictions, and adjust. All of which translates to saving energy and money, in the long run.

Other examples of IoT include wearable devices. Many wearable devices track health data. Some devices can monitor heart rates, stress levels, daily activity, etc. While these devices can be useful, do you feel comfortable having your personal health data collected, stored, analyzed, etc. by a third party?

Plans are in progress to build “smart” cities. Smart cities could include elements like parking spots to alert drivers where one is available. Or things like smart sidewalks that could heat up to melt snow and ice.

The conveniences offered are attractive, but they come at a price. The true cost of personal data collection and usage is difficult to calculate.

The Downside of the IoT

As a Records and Information Management (RIM) professional, I always consider the negative side of IoT. My primary concern is the volume of collected data and opaque data retention/usage policies. Although using the IoT seems attractive, assessing the whole process is important, too.

Often, as end users, we don’t always understand what data is collected. We’re often unaware of how long the company keeps data. Or its exact use.

Good Questions to Consider When Purchasing IoT Products/Services

Consider the questions below so you can make an informed decision.

  1. What data is being collected?
  2. How will this data be used?
  3. Does the company share data with any third parties?
  4. How long will the data be retained?
  5. Is data retained, after you stop using the service or device?
  6. Are you in control of deleting data?
  7. How is your privacy and personally identifiable information (PII) protected?

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