Transmogrifying Privacy: The Impact of the Internet of Things on Open Government

Steven I. Friedland


[extract] Privacy can be seen as both a personal right and an important pillar of open government. Yet, understandings of privacy are changing at breakneck speed in the digital era. In essence, privacy has become transmogrified; a shapeshifter. A particularly transformative influence has been the Internet of Things (IoT). The IoT, a series of networks often but not always connected through the Internet, have opened a firehose of information for companies and governments alike. This treasure trove of information allows for government tracking in unprecedented ways. This paper explores the influence of the IoT, the mass self-surveillance it produces on privacy, and the new shapes of privacy that are emerging as a result.

We live in a volatile world of diminishing privacy. Part of the reason lies with the enormous data flows created by the Internet and connecting devices, often labeled the Internet of Things (IoT). These data flows become part of information marketplaces, and often find their way to the government. Thus, the IoT, for all its progressive digital advantages, has become a huge feeder of information to private companies and the government, generally without any of the traditional safeguards of privacy, such as the Fourth Amendment’s requirement of probable cause or warrants for many searches. Controlling this IoT-enhanced information flow to government will be critical in coming years to maintaining open government, which otherwise could access information equivalent to serving general warrants, as was common in pre-United States England.

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