The Future of Privacy Forum today released The Internet of Things (IoT) and People with Disabilities: Exploring the Benefits, Challenges, and Privacy Tensions. This paper explores the nuances of privacy considerations for people with disabilities using IoT services and provides recommendations to address privacy considerations, which can include transparency, individual control, respect for context, the need for focused collection and security.

“Internet of Things devices in homes, cars and on our bodies can improve the quality of life for people with disabilities—if they are designed to be accessible and account for the sensitive nature of the data they collect,” said Jules Polonetsky, CEO of the Future of Privacy Forum. “We expect this first-of-its-kind paper to inspire collaboration among advocates, academia, government, and industry to ‘bake in’ privacy and accessibility from the start of the design process.”

IoT devices and services are empowering people with disabilities to participate more fully and autonomously in everyday life by reducing some needs for human intermediaries or accommodations. In addition to the potential benefits of IoT devices and services for people with disabilities, unique privacy risks and challenges can be raised by the collection, use, and sharing of user data. Depending on the circumstances, privacy can be enhanced or diminished by IoT technologies, creating potential tensions between privacy gains and losses.

Research for this paper was supported by the Comcast Innovation Fund and conducted in consultation with the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) Technology Forum and several other stakeholders.