Progressing a global approach towards an ethical Internet of Things

start at 14:00 – ends at 18:00, location: Meeting studio 201 A/B, Session at EuroDIG, Brussels, 2016

Since the 3rd Internet Governance Forum (IGF) meeting in Hydrabad (2008), IoT has been on the agenda for multi-stakeholder discussions of all IGFs, and the Dynamic Coalition on IoT continues to raise attention for the potential as well as challenges of the emergence of a world in which increasing amounts of sensors and actuators connected to the Internet and collect, act and share data, with other things and people.
Following the DC IoT meeting during the IGF in Istanbul in 2014 and subsequent meetings during 2015, we came to the conclusion that in order to foster both innovation and user trust in the Internet of Things, like the Internet, a careful balance should be struck between regulation and innovation. Consequently, we have started to explore what principles we should embrace to ensure that <1> innovation and beneficial application of IoT can foster and at the same time <2> society is comfortable with the way these products and services are set up.
We came to understand that the way forward is to be found in taking ethical considerations into account from the outset, both in the development, deployment and use phases of the life cycle, thus to find a sustainable way ahead using IoT helping to create a free, secure and enabling rights based environment. This has resulted in a draft Statement that was presented and discussed during the IGF in Joao Pessoa in 2015. Following the discussion during the IGF 2015 and the on-line discussion, a number of observations were made and the dialogue focused further on:

  1. IoT is not one big animal: it is an ecosystem with many elements. It is important to distinguish the specific IoT application, before becoming more specific than “generic”. We need to develop an ontology for IoT applications with respect to: a. Privacy sensitivity; b. Security level required, not only for protecting data but also for avoiding unauthorized tampering; c. Safety level required, much depending on the type of application and sector.
  2. IoT to address societal challenges: call for good practice examples. Overall, IoT was seen as “coming” and “promising” and necessary to be able to address specific societal challenges. In this it is important to ensure developing countries can and will benefit from IoT applications as well, such as in agriculture and disaster warning systems. It was proposed to develop an annex to the declaration with examples of good practice in a variety of applications.
  3. Explaining “ethical” in IoT perspective requires a multistakeholder dialogue: In terms of “ethical” it was remarked that a proposed “ethical approach” should find a balance in being “sufficient” from a civil society point of view, and “do-able” from a business point of view.
  4. Need for IoT awareness with citizens and consumers: In terms of “making people aware” it was pointed out that “meaningful transparency” also mend that people should not be expected to be technical experts. One way of dealing with this is using simplified codes (like washing labels), and clear language reference sites, like a “Wikipedia for IoT”. Another important factor is for users to have choice, and ownership, and where this is not possible for business to commit to “fairness” – again a concept to be further developed over the coming year.

Overall, all dialogue participants seem so far to agree that IoT is coming, and that law alone will not be sufficient to “guide” responsible development of IoT products and services. It will need action from all stakeholders, and the dialogue facilitated by the dynamic coalition will help find a way forward that will help create “a future we want”.
Aim of EuroDIG 2016 is to progress this statement, following the dialogue. All participants are invited to consider the statement and contribute to a moderated session which will be kicked off with a “where are we, today” to ensure a common starting point.
Please note that during EuroDIG on 9 June 2016 we will further the dialogue during the Plenary Session IoT – A sustainable way forward. Following a short introduction of Mr. Wojciech Wiewiórowski, (Assistant EDPS) and with help of a multi-stakeholder panel including:

  • Robert McDougall (Vodafone Director of Public Policy and Chair of the AIOTI Working Group on Policy/business community representative);
  • Maria Farrell (Senior Consultant, Interconnect Communications/Civil society representative);
  • Paul Rendek (RIPE NCC Director for External Communications/Technical Community representative); and
  • Mario Campolargo (European Commission Director for Net Futures DG CONNECT)

This plenary panel starts at 17:00 and will be preceded by a lightning talk by Google that will take us to 2026 (starting at 16:30) see