The world has changed in ways that are even more dramatic than the conventional wisdom would suggest. When thinking about privacy online, it is tempting to immediately envision a desktop web browsers and one's latest web search. There are many privacy issues in that interaction to be sure, but it does not come close to depicting the extent to which computing, sensors, and tracking technology deeply pervade our world. Not only are there at least 128 million smart phones being used in the United States with embedded cameras, location awareness, video and audio recording capabilities, and powerful cell and satellite radios,1 but there is also a wide proliferation of other network-aware and network-sensitive devices and items that will soon dwarf smart phones in overall number as well as in terms of data collection points. These network-aware and network sensing objects include a wide array of medical devices, cars, televisions, credit cards, game consoles, e-readers, utility meters, public and private surveillance cameras, employee badges, consumer goods with RFID (Radio Frequency ID) tags, and many other items. There is no single technical achievement that enabled this, it is rather the sum total of society's ability to leverage a wide variety of radio and wireless technologies (wifi, Bluetooth and Near Field Communication technologies, CDMA, GSM, landline cable access, WiMax, and satellite communications) together with advances in local and remote caching, persistent device and object identifiers, and the computational power of "cloud computing" to analyze and repurpose disperse data sets as never before. Cloud computing has also raised privacy and legal issues all its own, because it represents a global migration of data outside of the traditional trust boundaries represented by the walls of the corporate data center.
The future has arrived early, and it consists of a cybernetic world that goes well beyond that which was envisioned in most science fiction novels from only a decade ago. Researchers have begun to call this new reality the "Internet of Things": a universe of uniquely identifiable objects capable of being known, addressed, and/or represented on the Internet.
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