On June 28th, FOSI convened a roundtable on “Connected Families: The Risks and Opportunities of Connected Devices, Toys and Cars” at the GSMA in London. The event was made possible by sponsorship from Microsoft.
The discussion started off with opening remarks about changes in the field of online safety and the complex issues that families, industry, and policymakers face today. A presentation on the vulnerabilities of connected toys and other smart devices set the stage for the conversation. The presentation included brief demonstrations of toys and home devices that have been hacked and a conversation about how white hat hackers can help identify potential risks for companies.
A certain amount of industry self-regulation has taken place in the absence of legislation, with falling share prices forcing irresponsible companies out of business. The potentially serious implications of a lack of consumer trust in IoT technology was highlighted. Attendees noted that some larger companies are providing leadership and best practices in the emerging connected toy space.
The first panel focused on “Identifying Risks for Connected Families” and discussants explored the challenges of new technologies and responsibilities for keeping kids safe. The panel outlined the types of companies engaging with smart toys, risks to children around the use of data and the constant monitoring of children through devices and toys.
Panelists talked about the increased monitoring of children through new technologies for babies and young children and whether this helps parents or increases anxiety without providing adequate context. The need for increased transparency and building privacy protections into new technology was discussed, as well as the impact of screenless devices which can cause issues with permissions and privacy but can also lead to more imaginative play and interaction.
Attendees emphasized the need to include children, regulators, law enforcement, and educators in future discussions around connected families to ensure a better understanding of how new technologies provide both risks and benefits and to help coordinate resources and outreach.
The second-panel topic was “Benefits and Rewards for Connected Families.” The panel began with a brief overview of the number of wearables and predictions for increased growth in smart wristbands and clothing as well as connected cars. Panelists looked at some of the positive benefits such as simultaneous translation and increased accessibility for people with disabilities.
Panelists shared examples of how the Internet of Things can help seniors living at home, inform caregivers, and even provide transportation for those who can no longer drive. The conversation talked about the need for additional ethnographic studies to see how the Internet of Things is used in homes and supplements traditional parenting.
The discussion around benefits explored some of the emerging ethical considerations around the Internet of Things and where there may be a duty of care. Attendees also talked about the importance of sharing existing industry standards and codes of conduct with those new to the field to help companies take responsibility.
The roundtable provided an important overview on existing and emerging issues, highlighted areas for increased collaboration, and identified the need for additional research on how the Internet of Things impacts families. FOSI will continue to focus on “Connected Families” this year through resources, events, and an upcoming research project that will be released at our Annual Conference on November 16th.