Alberta Participates in Global Privacy Sweep on Internet of Things

by Morinville News Staff

Devices connected to the Internet of Things got a failing grade in securing personal information; the government announced Thursday.

A recent international study has shown six in ten Internet of Things devices do not properly inform customers how their personal information is being used.

The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (OIPC), along with 24 privacy regulators around the world, looked at internet-connected devices to consider how well organizations communicate privacy matters to their customers.

Internationally, the report showed that of the more than 300 devices reviewed 59 per cent failed to adequately explain to customers how their personal information was collected, used and disclosed; 68 per cent failed to properly explain how information was stored; and 72 per cent failed to explain how customers could delete their information off the device. Additionally, 38 per cent failed to include easily identifiable contact details if customers had privacy concerns.

In Alberta, the review focused on smart meters used by utility companies for billing and insurance companies’ usage-based insurance (UBI) programs for vehicles.

The government says the results were positive in Alberta, and privacy issues and risks are communicated adequately .

Earlier this year insurance companies were permitted to offer UBI policies to customers in Alberta. Before being allowed to enter the Alberta market, the Superintendent of Insurance (Alberta Treasury and Finance) required insurance providers to submit privacy impact assessments (PIAs) to the OIPC for review and acceptance prior to implementation. To date, three such PIAs have been accepted by the OIPC.

Both smart meter programs analyzed during the study were encrypting the transmission of information between the smart meters and meter readers, and the information was non-identifiable until it was matched to customer identification in a secure environment.

“The ingenuity and advancements in the Internet of Things in such a short time is astonishing, and in many ways, these devices do provide a variety of benefits,” said Information and Privacy Commissioner Jill Clayton in a release Thursday. “But the exponential increase of what are essentially surveillance devices does give pause to consider what impacts they may have on privacy rights. This review provides an opportunity for me and fellow privacy regulators to identify best practices, trends, and gaps in understanding for businesses and consumers.”

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