The Connectivity Standards Alliance (CSA), the group behind Matter, has announced the formation of a new Data Privacy Working Group. The goal of this group, as stated by the alliance, will be to develop a global “Alliance Data Privacy Specification” to help certify the data privacy of smart devices while also fully disclosing in a simple to understand matter, how any information gathered by the devices is used.
“We aim to support customers in better understanding what data is being collected, how it is used, and if it complies with existing privacy requirements,” states the CSA on its website announcing the group. “Acting as an advocate on behalf of consumers, the Alliance can offer guidance to each facet and act as proponents for fairness.”
“We aim to support customers in better understanding what data is being collected, how it is used, and if it complies with existing privacy requirements.”
Data Privacy Working Group to Address Gap in US Regulations
It’s no secret that at this point: data is a more potent currency than anything else on the market. It’s so valuable that companies have been willing to sell products at a monetary loss on the potential millions they stand to make through data. It’s how Facebook, a free application, grew into a multi-billion-dollar business.
Legislation like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) now exists to regulate the gathering and selling of consumer data, however, this only pertains to EU citizens. No such legislation exists in the United States yet. Companies that operate exclusively within American markets don’t have to play by the rules and guidelines the GDPR sets out, which can pose a problem in certain cases.
The situation gets even more dicey, as we look towards another growing trend in smart homes: the collection of healthcare data. Do the companies gathering data on heart rates, sleep behavior and other vitals also ascribe to the Hippocratic oath the same way doctors and nurses do? Two years ago, I engaged with several others on a panel during CEDIA’s Wellcon discussing sleep technology, and the topic of data privacy took up a good portion of that discussion.
Sure, more headlines occur around exposing data to a massive hack—and I don’t want to discount the value of cybersecurity for that—but people are far more likely to have their data exposed by a company legally selling it.
Data Usage Remains Huge Concern Among American Consumers
As of right now, the Data Privacy Working Group is in its formative stages, meaning little information is available other than “it’s happening, so stay tuned.” What aspects of data will be covered, how the group plans to test adherence to policies and how transparent the CSA will be about the group’s processes, is to be determined.
News outlets have already begun to call into question whether or not companies who made their fortunes selling data will willingly hamstring themselves over the matter. I would argue that ‘Matter’ somewhat dispels that concern. When companies attempted making non-compatible ecosystems to drive consumer loyalty, it ultimately led to the rise of standards like Matter, Zigbee and Z-Wave to help preserve the health of the industry.
One of the reasons for many ‘failures’ within the smart home space has been a lack of consumer confidence surrounding data privacy. It’s why Alexa has largely been relegated to being a music player and occasional smart home controller. Consumers don’t want to hand out any personal information to these devices because of how they envision it will be used. As a result, Alexa has been costing Amazon billions of dollars off a bet that the company could monetize consumer data around usage patterns.
That doesn’t just hamstring profits. It hamstrings the efficacy of smart home systems. Using data to improve services and offerings is a problematically vague phrase, but in the case of AI and machine learning, it’s relevant. Certain data does get used to improve how those systems work leading to smoother, more convenient interactions with them and without consumer trust, the technology never has the opportunity to improve.
With over 300 major smart home companies forming up the CSA, including huge names like Apple, Google, Amazon, and Samsung, the group definitely has a solid starting point. Plus, the fact that the CSA also recently announced a Health and Wellness Working Group specifically for sharing health tech data, shows the level of commitment and awareness the alliance has when it comes to issues facing the smart home industry.
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