INTERNET OF THINGS AND THE LAW
As we have already seen in the previous articles, the advent of IoT marks a major shift in the technological dependence of human beings, and the law is evolving to adapt to the changing demands and requirements corresponding to new smart machines. Major questions are raised with respect to privacy, security, data protection, consumer disputes, etc. Here let us have a look at a few major law suits relating to the IoT industry.
- VIZIO PRIVACY INFRINGEMENT: The smart-TV manufacturer was using its software to collect data about consumers, such as sex, age, income, marital status, etc. and was sharing it with third parties and began selling targeted advertising data to the consumers. The stated purpose for collecting information was to give programme offers and suggestions, but they used it for advertising purposes without obtaining consumers’ consent, which was the reason for the Federal Trade Commission lawsuit filed alongside the Attorney general of New Jersey and the Director of the State’s Consumer Affairs Division. On February 6th, Vizio settled the matter by paying $2.2 Million, and passed a Resolution that they would collect clear consumer consent before tracking their data.
- NETFLIX PATENT SUIT: A company named Blackbird Technologies sued the popular online entertainment giant Netflix a few months back, on a claim of infringement of patent. The former company owns a plethora of patents in the US, and survives on the money earned through lawsuits relating to the infringement of these patents. The patent is in relation to a method of supplying products from pre-stores digital data in response to consumer demands send through computer networks. The suit has been filed against Netflix and three other companies which all have some feature of digital data duplication, such as downloading and viewing a content offline.
- CAHEN v TOYOTA MOTOR CORPORATION: In the 2015 case, the Motor Manufacturers Toyota, Ford and General Motors were sued in a class action by a consumer, alleging that the computer technology in these vehicles were prone to easy hacking, as most of the vehicle’s functions were controlled by a small network of computers. It was claimed that the manufacturers were available of the security risk, but nonetheless claimed it to be secure, and this amounted to fraud. However, the Court dismissed the lawsuit, supporting the defendant’s claim that a mere speculation of a future hacking is not an actual injury, and since no actual incidents of hacking has taken place, the case does not stand.
- ROSE v St. JUDE MEDICAL INC.: In this 2016 case, the plaintiff challenged a variety of medical implants such as pacemakers, heart-resynchronizers, etc. that use radiofrequency wireless technology, which allows these devices to be monitored remotely, by which the patient does not need to go to the Doctor for monitoring. The case was based on a Report that alleged that these in-house transmission devices were not secure, and the devices were exposed to potential attacks by hackers. The manufactures denied the security risk, and have in fact filed a case against the publishers of the Report, alleging defamation.
- BAKER v ADT CORP.: In the 2014 case, the plaintiff sued wireless home security devices manufactured by ADT, as capable of being turned off by using popular technology, under a third-party’s control. The claim was that the system was falsely triggered by some third party, but the case was based more on the ‘security’ guarantees given by ADT in its marketing statements, rather than on the actual quantified damage based on the alarms falsely raised. The Court dismissed the suit in part, but kept the portions on consumer fraud, with respect to the claims on “secure communication links.”
These are only a few examples on the potential matters on which lawsuits may arise, with the IoT technology proceeding in full blow and entering new spheres of products, including home security, wearable devices, healthcare, etc. As discussed in the earlier articles, the questions may arise on a plethora of issues, ranging from IP infringement, consumer disputes, security, privacy, and so on. The take of law enforcement on these matters would have to be seen from the decisions made by the Regulatory Authorities, as when the questions come up before them.