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Cambridge Public Policy SRI

The Internet of Things Report

The Internet of Things will not flourish without laws to protect privacy rights and civil dialogue to build trust in new technologies, says a new Report from the University of Cambridge

The report explores the consequences of the new technology known as the Internet of Things, which many believe has the potential to fundamentally reshape business and social relationships.

Discussions which formed the basis for the report brought together researchers from a range of disciplines with industry leaders. Debates reflected the need for scientific and technological advances to be understood in conjunction with expertise on economics and law. Technology is socially mediated and has always had a complex relationship with law and the economy.

Data is becoming more widely collated and stored as part of a wider process of technological and societal change.  The collection of Big Data is creating significant commercial opportunities.  However, whether such data is properly anonymised raises valid concerns. We are witnessing a break-down of partitions between different data sources that have until now protected the individual. Privacy concerns can be expected to impact on business models in future.

Via the IoT, machine to Machine (M2M) communication is likely to have a major impact on infrastructure and on the way towns and cities are developed in the future. Although still far from being a general purpose technology such as the Internet itself, the IoT has the potential to evolve in this direction, allowing new business models to emerge. 

The IoT creates new opportunities for data to be collated and used, and may thereby create new business uses, but this aspect of the technology is controversial.  If the IoT is to become a reality, firms need to build trust around issues of privacy and security associated with the IoT.

The IoT potentially affects everyone as citizens and not simply as consumers. Thus there should be civil dialogue and debate around the implications of the IoT. Government has a role in stimulating this debate and in encouraging firms and industry bodies to come up with solutions to privacy and security issues. The legal system must ensure that privacy rights are respected and at the same time as allowing experimentation over terms and conditions for data use in ways which can help address legitimate concerns.

An active and engaged civil society, a supportive government, which can intervene effectively when required and a flexible legal system, are among the conditions needed for the IoT to realise its full potential.

To read the report, please click here

For further information contact Professor Simon Deakin at