Personal data, privacy and the Internet of Things

17 June 2015

Ofcom has commissioned WIK-Consult to produce an independent report on personal data and privacy.

As the popularity of internet connected devices has grown, so the debate about the collection and use of consumer data has developed and increasingly the debate has focused on issues about how to best secure consumer trust and protect consumers while supporting future growth and innovation.

In January 2015, Ofcom published a consultation statement: Promoting investment and innovation in the Internet of Things (PDF, 268.5 KB).

Data privacy was considered the most important area by stakeholders, as the success of the Internet of Things (IoT) depends on users being content to share data and content that any data privacy concerns have been adequately addressed. The challenge is in making users aware of their data being captured; how it might be used; and how it might be shared with third parties. If users better understand how their data can be used and shared, they should be able to make more informed choices and reduce the possibility of making decisions which they later regret.

Given the role of consumer data in underpinning the rapid growth and evolution of the IoT, we believe it is important for Ofcom to better understand how relevant information can be conveyed to people when they sign up for services such that they can make informed choices. Being properly informed is an important element of creating a trusted environment. A trusted environment will help ensure that consumers benefit from future developments in the internet connected devices ecosystem.

What we did

Ofcom commissioned WIK-Consult to carry out a literature review of the experimental research looking at the effectiveness of different approaches to informing consumers about proposed uses of their data, and securing their engagement and consent. The purpose of publishing this report is to make a contribution to broader discussions in relation to the IoT and consumer data privacy.

The report looks in general terms at:

  • the role of informed consent in privacy law,
  • the role of informed consent in practice, and
  • potential ways to improve informed consent in practice.

The report also specifically considers the impact of the IoT on these areas. The review gathers insights from the fields of behavioural economics, consumer behaviour research, IT, law and psychology.

It is important to note that this report does not make policy recommendations nor does it advocate particular approaches to the issue of securing informed consent: we are publishing this report as a contribution to the debate about the use of consumers’ personal data and data privacy issues.

Full report

Personal data and privacy (PDF, 1.2 MB)