Moral Dilemmas and Ethics for IoT: The Internet of Things
To connect or not connect. That is the question for IoT – the Internet of Things. Just because we can connect a toaster to the internet, should we? What about a pacemaker? An insulin pump? Should doctors in Montana be able to give orders to a nurse in Texas to change the drip of an IV in a patient in Kansas? Sounds farfetched I’ll bet. Just as farfetched as self-driving cars two years ago.
It’s not simply a matter of right or wrong. Robbing a bank is wrong. Connecting a thermostat to the internet? Depends on who’s talking, who’s selling and who’s buying. As more of our lives are sacrificed to the Internet gods in the name of convenience, we want things easier, quicker and on our phone. Now. Right now. Like RIGHT NOW.
Can We Trust Our Privacy To Healthcare?
The more you connect devices to the internet, the more data it collects about you. And then it’s about the metadata – the data about the data. For example, did you know a Tweet has 140 characters of data, but nearly 2,000 characters in metadata? It’s mind-numbing to see what a Tweet actually contains. That data is far more valuable to retailers, marketing firms and the government.
As IoT expands into more aspects of our lives, we need to ask where the line is that doesn’t get crossed. While it’s obvious that technology had made a dramatic difference in the quality of healthcare, healthcare itself is under constant attack and is the number one target for hackers.
This isn’t about connecting my pet fish to the internet. Although I do wonder what fish think. If the fish gets hacked, it gets flushed. That simple. On the other hand, one out of every three Americans had their healthcare records breached in 2015. The same organizations that deal in life and death, who have been breached repeatedly, now want to hook your cardiac monitor, IV pump, insulin pump, pacemaker, and who knows what else (maybe the toilet).
Does anyone see a problem yet?
I don’t know. I do know this, however. The issue of genes, DNA, genetic diseases and many other medical terms I can’t pronounce have far-reaching implications. As a result, there are medical professionals who are solely focused on the ethics of medical research and treatment. Just because you can splice a gene and prevent a hereditary disease, should you?
To what extent do some people live and some people die based on these decisions?
Life and death are about as serious as it gets. Who is going to lead the discussion on ethics, the internet, and the internet of things? Apple, Google and Microsoft? Healthcare organizations who are getting breached daily? The government? There is no equivalent of a doctor in IoT.
Inevitably, a medical device will be hacked and result in the death of a patient. The question will most likely be “How did this happen?”. The real question is why was it connected to the internet in the first place?
That will be the challenge for years to come.