The “Internet of Things,” or IoT, is the latest term to describe the evolutionary trend of devices becoming “smarter”: more aware of their environment, more computationally powerful, more able to react to context, and more communicative. There are many reports, articles, and books on the technical and economic potential of the IoT, but in-depth explorations of its privacy challenges for a general audience are limited. This report addresses that gap by surveying privacy concepts, values, and methods so as to place the IoT in a wider social and policy context.

How many devices in your home are connected to the Internet? How about devices on your person? How many microphones are in listening distance? How many cameras can see you? To whom is your car revealing your location? As the future occurs all around us and technology advances in scale and scope, the answers to these questions will change and grow. Vint Cerf, described as one of the “fathers of the Internet” and chief Internet evangelist for Google, said in 2014, “Continuous monitoring is likely to be a powerful element in our lives.”1 Indeed, monitoring of the human environment by powerful actors may be a core characteristic of modern society.

Regarding the IoT, a narrative of “promise or peril” has emerged in the popular press, academic journals, and in policy-making discourse.2 This narrative focuses on either the tremendous opportunity for these new technologies to improve humanity, or the terrible potential ...

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