The growing Internet of Things phenomenon could be “a complete field day for a data protection lawyer”.

That is the view of Joanna Berry, consultant at UK law firm Mills and Reeve.

Microchips in fridges and other household appliances, as well as wearable technology such as FitBits, are becoming more commonplace.

And increasing number of smart devices able to communicate with each other has been hailed by many as the greatest opportunity for improving the world.

Japanese giant SoftBank is expected to purchase British tech giant ARM, which designs microchips such as those found in smartphones and other devices, for £24billion.

It is paying a premium for the Cambridge-based unicorn because it sees the rise of the IoT as the greatest opportunity for growing business. 

The possibilities for infrastructure, quality of life and health seem endless – but Berry sounded a word of warning.

“You buy your FitBit on the understanding that it’s going to collect data on how many miles you’ve run, your heartbeat, your sleep patterns and all the rest of it,” she told a BusinessCloud roundtable.

“What you haven’t signed up to is that data going into a pool with other people’s data and being used for other purposes ultimately.

“That’s where the law is well behind the reality.”


Berry’s concern is that the recording of people’s health could be held against them.

Indeed, despite Britain’s decision to exit the European Union, the nation’s companies and organisations will have to abide by impending European legislation which seeks to counter this.

“Once people start to monitor you, the information they have to price your insurance is much more detailed,” she continued.

“There’s a whole new data protection regulation coming through in 2018 which is going to say that consent has to be explicit – it can’t just be vague.”

Richard Hamnett, ResponseTap

Richard Hamnett, co-founder of ResponseTap – which provides call tracking and web analytics – says an ethical debate is needed.

“Right now at Response Tap we are looking at customer behaviour when looking for a particular product from an online journey perspective,” he says. “Can we apply the same strategy in-store?

“It’s an ethical debate: should we be tracking someone’s phone in this way?

“If we can provide them with an offer that pops up when they walk past a product because we know they’ve been looking at it on the internet, is that helpful?

“That will only pan out with a vote from people’s feet – and whether they use it or not.”