The Internet of Things--Avoid Getting Eaten by the Wolf in Sheep's Clothing

by Pillsbury Global Sourcing Practice

With the number of (internet) connected devices rapidly surpassing the number of internet people (actually, all people whether or not connected), we take this opportunity to explore some of the legal complexity brought about by all of this connectivity.
First, some background:

  • Introduction of IPv6 uses 128 bit addresses - limit: 340 Trillion addresses

This means that with the current population, we have the ability to address over 47,000 addresses/devices per person

The Sheep's Clothing
The Internet of Things has some wonderful benefits. For example:

  • You can now remotely control your thermostat to save energy;
  • You can monitor systems in your house when away to protect its physical security;
  • Companies can monitor the flow of goods and inventory through their systems;
  • Utilities can manage the flow of resources based on supply and demand through smart metering;
  • Distributers can monitor the movement of their fleets;
  • Municipalities can monitor flow of traffic on streets and availability of parking spaces;
  • And the list goes on as far as our imagination

The Wolf
But. . . the Internet of Things also creates huge amounts of information. And with that information, come all of the risks and challenges of having information.

Companies or other entities collecting or processing information need to protect the confidentiality of that information. Information about the things of individuals can disclose significant information about that individual.

For example, the GPS tracking on a cell phone may be used to tell the owner of an App where the person is going which could disclose private, or even Protected Health Information--imagine, if you will, a company that uses the GPS tracking to monitor the movement of its distributed sales force and learns that one of the sales personnel has been frequenting a certain kind of medical establishment.

Entities need to understand what information they may obtain, and need to develop clear policies and manage expectations of the users. In some countries, even having employees consent to such monitoring may not be enforceable given the "coerced" nature of employee "consent."

This gets even more concerning when companies are monitoring their customers rather than their employees. Although the monitoring may be for the most well-intentioned purposes, the company still possesses sensitive data. For example, the App on smartphones that tracks where people exercise using GPS also knows when people are exercising far from home. If someone was able to hack into that data, they would know when was a good time to break into the home or harm the user's family.

In addition to privacy concerns, there are also more direct employment concerns. Internet connected devices make it easier for employees to work whenever and wherever. This sounds great, but this also means that hourly employees may be encouraged to work outside of their normal work hours. Not only does the device facilitate this extra work, it also reports on it. There are reported cases where this has led to companies incurring unanticipated overtime liability for hourly employees responding to emails from their smartphones.

The Internet of Things also facilitates more direct monitoring--both by private companies and by the government.

Having this data also makes an entity subject to inquiries from law enforcement and in litigation. This volume of data compounds the classic eDiscovery problems which can drive huge costs in terms of gathering, reviewing, and providing data. In addition, a company may be faced with a decision of incurring the legal expense of defending a request for information to protect the privacy of its customers, or sharing the information and affecting its reputation with the customer-base.

Don't Get Eaten
So, what is the purpose of this blog post? The move to the Internet of Things is both unavoidable and, by-in-large, beneficial. By all means, get on board, or be left behind. But entities should be thoughtful and understand some of the associated risks so that they can be built into the decision-making process. By understanding the legal risks, systems can be designed to generate great benefits while accommodating legitimate legal concerns. Advanced awareness and planning can empower those who embrace the Internet of Things, rather than allowing them to be blindsided when it is too late.


DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Pillsbury Global Sourcing Practice | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Pillsbury Global Sourcing Practice

Pillsbury Global Sourcing Practice on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at:

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.