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Yes, I know this IoT Device Might Invade my Privacy, but I Love it Anyway! A Study of Saudi Arabian Perceptions

Authors:
Yes, I know this IoT Device Might Invade my Privacy, but I Love it
Anyway!
A Study of Saudi Arabian Perceptions
Noura Aleisa and Karen Renaud
School of Computing Science, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, U.K.
Keywords: Internet of Things, Privacy.
Abstract: The Internet of Things (IoT) ability to monitor our every move raises many privacy concerns. This paper
reports on a study to assess current awareness of privacy implications of IoT devices amongst Saudi Arabians.
We found that even when users are aware of the potential for privacy invasion, their need for the convenience
these devices afford leads them to discount this potential and to ignore any concerns they might initially have
had. We then conclude by making some predictions about the direction the IoT field will take in the next 5-7
years, in terms of privacy invasion, protection and awareness.
1 INTRODUCTION
The term “Internet of Things” (IoT) refers to ubiqui-
tous networking; where all things or objects are con-
nected to each other via wired or wireless commu-
nication networks. The idea is that these “things”
remove the need for humans to undertake deliberate
repetitive actions. IoT devices, everyday objects such
as kettles, lights and fridges are all connected and add
a whole new dimension in terms of ease of access
and control to device owners. The number of IoT de-
vices has mushroomed and their presence in people’s
lives is now almost guaranteed, especially when one
realises that the Smartphone is also an IoT device.
When the term “Internet of Things” was first
coined by Kevin Ashton at Procter & Gamble in 1999
(Ashton, 2009) there were claims that it would revolu-
tionise peoples’ lives. IoT devices accumulate every
personal data about our day to day lives. What they
do with this data could easily constitute a violation
of personal privacy (Fink et al., 2015; Ministry of
Communication and Information Technology, 2010).
The question is whether the 21st century citizen un-
derstands that this is happening.
The Saudi government is engaged in a programme
of reform specifically to address network-connected
devices and renewable energy (Nikkei Asian Review,
2016). This paves the way for many more IoT de-
vices to enter the Saudi economy. A recent study by
Accenture has shown that Saudi Arabia is ranked fifth
among Arab states in terms of using technology, and
on the 7th rank at the world level in term of mobile
phone penetration in 2010. This is an opportunity to
study a population who is newly entering the IoT mar-
ket, to determine whether they understand the risks,
and to explore their sensitivities.
We carried out a study with 236 Saudi Arabian
participants and detected a relatively low level of
privacy-awareness and concern,, although some were
indeed concerned about privacy invasions. We con-
clude by making some predictions about the direction
the IoT field might take in the next few years, in terms
of privacy invasion, awareness and protection.
2 RELATED WORK
Warren and Brandeis defined privacy as the ‘right to
be let alone’ (Warren and Brandeis, 1890). Currently,
privacy is a sweeping concept, including freedom of
thought, home isolation, control over personal infor-
mation, freedom from surveillance, reputation protec-
tion, and protection from searches and investigation
(Solove, 2008). Even with the increased collection of
personal information by a number of public and com-
mercial institutions, there is still an expectation of pri-
vacy. People believe that they can “control” their per-
sonal information by controlling who can access the
information and deciding how the information will be
used (Solove, 2008). In the new world of pervasive
IoT this is not the case.
198
Aleisa, N. and Renaud, K.
Yes, I know this IoT Device Might Invade my Privacy, but I Love it Anyway! A Study of Saudi Arabian Perceptions.
DOI: 10.5220/0006233701980205
In Proceedings of the 2nd International Conference on Internet of Things, Big Data and Security (IoTBDS 2017), pages 198-205
ISBN: 978-989-758-245-5
Copyright ©2017 by SCITEPRESS – Science and Technology Publications, Lda. All rights reserved
The advent of the IoT requires us to reassess tradi-
tional definitions of privacy. Whereas traditional pri-
vacy entails people granting access, IoT devices often
collect data without awareness, let alone permission.
Such information can be very personal and sensitive,
and such data can potentially reveal a great deal about
us, without device owners even being aware thereof
(Rouse, 2014).
IoT Privacy.
The IoT era has added new dimension of functionality
and convenience to our lives. People can now unlock
their doors, check the contents of their fridge, find a
parking spot, make coffee, or turn up their house’s
heating before they even leave work1.
Users permit companies, suppliers, and partners
to access their data so that these devices can under-
stand and satisfy their needs, often without any pri-
vacy guarantees (Guinard, 2015).
This means that outsiders could listen to what
you’re saying in your living room, gather information
about what TV programmes you watch, and collect
details about your personal daily routine. Before IoT,
only your closest friends and family, those you trust,
were privy to this information. Having IoT devices is
the equivalent of replacing all your walls with glass,
and sacrificing all your privacy.
As IoT emereged researchers argued for a global
legal framework binding all IoT manufacturers to be
established, given the potential durability of this new
technical environment (Weber, 2010; Medaglia and
Serbanati, 2010). Six years later this has not yet hap-
pened.
A study conducted by Sletteme˚
as (Sletteme˚
as,
2009) predicted a “Big Brother” public concern sce-
nario surrounding RFID. With a network of millions
of RFID readers and tags placed everywhere that con-
stantly read, process and evaluate people’s behaviours
will create surveillance societies. Without encryption,
RFID tags attached to items or people would respond
to relevant readers without the holder’s knowledge.
People have no practical way to disable such track-
ing (Kelly and Erickson, 2005; Lee and Kim, 2006;
Spiekermann and Berthold, 2005).
In addition, de Saint-Exupery (de Saint-Exupery,
2009) predicted that the more autonomous and intelli-
gent IoT objects become, the more problems will arise
related to the identity, privacy and responsibility of
“things”. He also raised concerns about the context
of the information held across billions of “things” be-
ing updated in real time. Millions of transactions or
1It is difficult to separate privacy from security in the
IoT domain, since a security failure often enables a privacy
invasion; this means IoT security, and IoT cyber crime, is
included in our privacy-related discussions
data being interchanged across thousands of “things”
with differing update policies opens up the potential
for a range of privacy invasions.
Preuveneers and Berbers (Preuveneers and
Berbers, 2008) presented a list of concerns related to
information being stored locally or remotely in the
future. They also raised concerns about information
being retrieved from RFID tags and used by multiple
parties on the network and being made available on a
remote server for further analysis. Static and profiled
information could be exploited, especially if historic
values could be woven into the analysis in order to
derive new information.
IoT Privacy Predictions.
We can summarize the privacy-related IoT predic-
tions raised by the researchers as follows:
1. The personal data collected by smart devices
(things) will be far in excess of what can be con-
ceived and managed by the device owners.
2. Greater realisation of the potential for mis-
use of personal data will lead to demands for greater
control of personal data collected by IoT things.
3. New regulation will force all IoT manufac-
turers to provide their consumers with the means to
manage their recorded data that is transmitted by their
smart device.
4. New regulation will also be required to force
IoT manufacturers to provide their consumers with
detailed information on how their personal data is
being used, and who has access to it.
5. IoT-related cyber crime will continue to in-
crease with the expansion of IoT as criminals branch
out to exploit the potential of this new technological
development.
6. The trade-off between convenience and pri-
vacy will swing towards sacrificing privacy for con-
venience, especially if effort is required to preserve
privacy.
We will return to this list later to consider how
many of these predictions have indeed materialised.
3 PRIVACY IN SAUDI ARABIA
We carried out this study with Saudi Arabians because
they are newly entering the IoT market. As such, they
are not yet used to the widespread invasion of pri-
vacy that seems to be accepted by so many countries
where IoT devices have already become part of peo-
ple’s lives to the extent that they no longer think about
the data they might be collecting. Studies of adoption
of other online services have shown privacy to be one
of the most important factors to Saudi Arabians (Al-
Ghaith et al., 2010; Eid, 2011; Sait et al., 2004).
Yes, I know this IoT Device Might Invade my Privacy, but I Love it Anyway! A Study of Saudi Arabian Perceptions
199
In the first place, do they know that IoT devices
quietly and continuously accumulate their personal
data? If they do know, are they also aware of the po-
tential for privacy invasion?
If we inform people of these facts, what kinds of
information would they be most concerned about, in
terms of such data being collected and then shared
with other parties? Moreover, how do they think this
data ought to be protected, and what level of control
would they, as device owners, like to have over their
personal data?
Saudi Study.
We used a questionnaire, in both English and Ara-
bic, to assess IoT-related privacy awareness of Saudi
Arabians2. Completion took 10 - 15 minutes. The
questionnaire was advertised to any smart device over
18 from the 20th of June to the 20th of July, 2016.
261 responses, and 250 refusals were collected. Sam-
pling was snowball-based, advertised using social
media tools such as Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp,
and email invitation.
For the validation process, first, we had an expert
on questionnaire construction to check the question-
naire for common errors like double-barreled, confus-
ing, ambiguous and leading questions. Secondly, we
had two experts read through the questionnaire and
three people with no technological expertise filled out
the questionnaire while talking aloud. Finally, after
collecting the data, we entered the responses into a
spreadsheet and cleaned the data to present the final
results (Collingridge, 2014).
RESULTS.
A total of 236 individuals responded to the ques-
tionnaire. The majority were aged 21 to 40 years
(72.8%) and were either employees (68.19%) or stu-
dents (20.3%). The percentage of female respondents
was (67.43%), (31.8%) for male, and only (0.76%)
did not provide gender. In terms of technological ex-
pertise, the majority rated themselves between 3 and
4 ( 74.31%), with 5 being the highest level.
Familiarity with IoT
The respondents were asked about their familiarity
with the term ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT). The answers
varied between being fully aware of this new tech-
nology to complete ignorance with 41 answers out of
100 not related to the definition of IoT. Participants
used the following words to describe the IoT, “con-
nect objects to the Internet”, “devices more smart”,
make life easier”, “Smart TV”, “Simplicity”, “Ac-
cess to everything”, “fast communication ”, “conve-
nience”, “share data between all devices”, “security
and safety ”, “remotely control devices”, ‘‘minimal ef-
fort and less time”, “gadgets, and smart devices”.
2http://ow.ly/WGRa306hg8Q
Respondents were asked if they owned a smart de-
vice (68%) or whether they were planning to acquire
one (26% did not want to own one). Only one respon-
dent mentioned a lack of privacy as a reason not to
purchase a smart device.
When respondents were asked which criteria were
important in informing their decision to buy a partic-
ular smart device. Functionality is paramount with a
weighted average of 4.56. This was followed by pri-
vacy and security with a weighted average 4.3. The
rest cited privacy as a critical aspect to be considered
before making the decision to buy a smart device.
Privacy Concerns.
Respondents had different opinions about the kind of
collected information that would most concern them.
Figure 1 presents all weighted averages.
Figure 1: The most concerning types of information.
We provided respondents with three different sce-
narios to measure their willingness to share informa-
tion in particular contexts. (Figure 2)
Figure 2: Willingness to share information.
Privacy Protection.
Questions explored how the respondents would like
to protect their privacy. 86% were in interested what
data is being collected before buying a smart device.
Figure 3 presents the responses.
IoTBDS 2017 - 2nd International Conference on Internet of Things, Big Data and Security
200
Humans have a fundamental need for control
and certainty and a lack thereof constitutes suffering
(Boff, 2012; Siegel, 2008) so giving the user the pos-
sibility of understanding when and why their data is
being collected will make them less anxious.
Figure 3: Data collected notifications.
Figure 4 shows how people want to be informed
about data collection activities. The main problem
with notifications is that users tend to drop their cur-
rent task to check the notification instead (Iqbal and
Horvitz, 2010). Too-frequent notifications can inter-
rupt and frustrate. Yet people still think this is what
they want (Shirazi et al., 2014).
Figure 4: How often the users like to be informed that a
smart device is collecting their information.
Analysis of the questionnaire answers demon-
strated that the preferred notification method is to be
alerted the first time a smart device starts collecting
your personal information. The preferred mechanism
is the short message service (SMS), second email or
alarm on the device, finally the light display on the
device.
The primary challenge of notification is prevent-
ing unwanted distraction to the primary task, while
still delivering information in an accurate and timely
manner. In some cases, a little distraction can be tol-
erated. In other cases, a user is willing to accept some
distraction to receive valuable information presented
in a timely fashion. To avoid annoying people, we
believe a prior estimation of the user’s prioritization
should be achieved by tracking user attention prior-
ities before setting up a notification schedule (Mc-
Crickard and Chewar, 2003).
The final question asked respondents to choose
how they would want their personal information to be
protected. Figure 5 depicts the responses.
Figure 5: Data protections.
4 DID PREDICTIONS
MATERIALISE?
We now reconsider each of the IoT privacy pre-
dictions in the light of our study and also recent
IoT-related news and events. In particular, in order to
assess the general public’s perceptions, we looked for
comments on one particular high profile story, the one
about Samsung Smart TV recording audio in people’s
living rooms and transmitting it to unknown third
parties for processing (Landau, 2015). We found
two websites that had allowed people to comment3.
On https://www.techdirt.com people responded to
Samsung’s eavesdropping with 91 comments. We
also inspected comments on the British Guardian
newspaper’s website to the same story. There were
34 comments. These comments provide a snapshot,
not an exhaustive survey of public opinion. Even so,
they do provide insights into how people feel about
devices that invade their privacy.
1. Lack of Awareness: The prediction was that
the amount of data collected would be inconceivable.
Only one of our respondents cited privacy as a reason
for not purchasing an IoT device. When prompted
with a list of criteria they would consider when buying
a device, privacy and security were rated very highly.
This suggests that privacy is important in general but
that it is not at the forefront of their minds when they
think about IoT devices.
A research project carried out by Norway’s Con-
sumer Council (NCC) in 2016 filed a formal com-
plaint about a wristband that helped people to monitor
their fitness. It collected data on asymmetrical and ob-
scure terms, gathered too much data, did not say who
3Search undertaken on the 15th November 2016
Yes, I know this IoT Device Might Invade my Privacy, but I Love it Anyway! A Study of Saudi Arabian Perceptions
201
had access to it and failed to say how long it would be
retained (BBC, 2016). Some very intimate informa-
tion collected by these devices was even revealed by a
Google search (Rao, 2011). Public awareness of this
seems low: people focus primarily on the function-
ality the device affords and do not seem to consider
how it is being provided (Weinstein, 2015).
Hence this prediction holds.
2. Greater Realisation of Potential for Misuse:
Nothing our respondents told us suggested a realisa-
tion of the potential for misuse. In fact, it was only
when we primed them with a list of criteria that in-
cluded privacy did they even consider this aspect. The
fact that voice recording did not bother them sug-
gested that they were not aware of the Samsung Smart
TV furore, nor could they conceive of this being mis-
used.
Some comments on the Samsung story on
https://www.techdirt.com suggested that the IoT po-
tential for invasion of privacy was news to the com-
menters:
“Thinking about it, it seems anything that is smart
needs to be avoided if you want a little bit of privacy
these days...
A few expressed outrage. One quote (with the
heading related to George Orwell’s book, 1984):
“The idea of the spyscreens was wild enough at the
time. The ability to monitor all of them all the time
would have been viewed as completely ludicrous.
Turns out reality is even worse than fiction in this
case”
This prediction appears to be emerging but
we are not observing any strong public outrage yet,
suggesting only dawning realisation.
As we were finalising this paper a news story
appeared which reported that a Chinese company had
been harvesting text messages from Android phones
and sending them to a server in China4. As more of
these stories emerge we can expect the realisation
amongst the general public to grow.
3. New Regulation to Force Full Disclosure before
Purchase: 86% of our respondents wanted to know
what data the smart device was going to collect about
them before buying the device. Yet there is little evi-
dence that this information is routinely provided. An
international privacy study by Canada’s federal Of-
fice of the Privacy Commissioner studied smart health
equipment and found that about three-quarters of the
users were not informed about how their collected in-
formation is stored and protected, while about half of
4http://www.kryptowire.com/adups security analysis.html
the devices did not explain how the collected infor-
mation could be deleted (Solomon, 2016).
Unlike the European Union, there are no spe-
cific laws for data protection and privacy in the Mid-
dle East. Saudi Arabia currently does not have a
comprehensive data breach protection law in effect.
However, there are several sources of law relevant
to privacy. One of these laws rules that Internet
Service Providers and telecommunications compa-
nies are prohibited from breaching any data carried
by their public systems unless it is allowed by law.
There are no relevant laws to force full disclosure be-
fore purchase(BakerHostetler, 2013).
7Since such regulation has not yet been imple-
mented this prediction has not yet materialised.
4. Demands for Information about how Data is
Handled: 28% of our respondents wanted to be
able to exercise control over their own data. On
https://www.techdirt.com someone explicitly calls for
more information: “They need to explicitly explain
what’s happening to all the data they’re collecting.
There is a caveat, though. It seems that when users
are presented with the means to control their personal
data, they, at some point, seem to become used to the
devices and push that worry to the back of their minds.
Over the years, Facebook has gone to great lengths to
give users more control over their personal data. The
irony is that few people actually exercise the control
they have, perhaps because it is boring or complex
(Hutchinson, 2015; Singer, 2015).
The prediction is weakly supported.
5. IoT-related Cyber Crime Increase: Earlier this
year, anonymous hackers have targeted Saudi Ara-
bia’s Ministry of Defence website with a sustained
distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack. Other
targets were the Ministry of Finance, the Saudi Cus-
toms Service, the General Passports Service and the
Saudi Ombudsman’s Office. Such attacks work by
flooding the target server with web traffic, usually
stemming from a botnet, in order to overload it and
force it offline for more than 24 hours. The attack
was in revenge for execution of Nimr al-Nimr, a Shia
leader (Cuthbertson, 2016).
A number of other attacks were reported in the
month before this paper deadline. We mention only a
few here (Pultarova, 2016; rt.com, 2016; Pauli, 2016).
One high profile DDoS attack targeted the DNS ser-
vice provider Dyn. It was a wake-up call for everyone,
and an inconvenience for the people who are looking
to access their favorite sites such as Amazon, Netflix,
and Twitter. The attack was facilitated by compro-
mised the Internet-connected DVRs, video cameras,
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202
and other Internet of Things (IoT) devices, generat-
ing the largest DDoS attack the world has ever seen.
(Roberts, 2016; Gleicher, 2016).
This Prediction has Materialised.
6. Device Owners Sacrifice Privacy for Conve-
nience: Our respondents considered functionality
the most important factor when purchasing an IoT de-
vice. They said they considered privacy and security
the second most important factor but the fact that 70%
owned a device in the Saudi environment, which has
so little legislation to protect them, suggests that in
reality they are sacrificing their privacy in return for
the convenience the device affords.
Given realistic scenarios, Saudi respondents
traded privacy for the benefits gained from using the
smart device, even if these benefits are relatively triv-
ial (Figure 2).
Other reports confirm how cavalier people are
with their privacy, even for small benefits (MacGre-
gor, 2016; Connelly et al., 2007; Edwards, 2003;
Turow et al., 2015; Hutchinson, 2015).
The prediction has materialised.
5 IOT PRIVACY PREDICTIONS
FOR 2027
Predictions are based on an integration of knowledge
and experience of IoT-related publications (Anthony,
2016; Compert, 2016; Kam, 2016; Markman, 2016;
Khera, 2016; Nordrum, 2016), participants’ opinions
and the authors’ reflections on their findings. A list of
predictions and trends related to IoT privacy for 2027
are suggested here:
Tighter Regulation: Because of the visibility of
recent IoT hacks, and the wide spread disruption they
have caused, we predict that new regulations will be
enacted to impose stricter rules pertaining to securing
of IoT devices. As a reaction some prominent voices
in the security arena are starting to call for regulation
(Nextgov, 2016; Khera, 2016; Price, 2016; Schneier,
2016; Bracy, 2015). In the UK, where they are rolling
out Smart Meters to all homes, and manufacturers had
made all of these devices use the same encryption key.
GCHQ, Britain’s electronic intelligence agency, in-
tervened to prevent this and to ensure that these de-
vices were more adequately secured. This is a posi-
tive sign that government is starting to recognise the
need to force manufacturers to behave more responsi-
bly (Clark and Jones, 2016).
Full Disclosure: When people are given the op-
portunity to abandon their privacy in exchange for
some benefit, the response is somewhat resigned, even
accepting. This is especially so if they perceived
a direct benefit of exchanging their data. However,
when people are told that their personal data is being
collected without their knowledge, the whole debate
shifts. We are happy to give up our data, but only if we
retain a sense of control. We do not like it being taken
from us without our knowledge (Hutchinson, 2015;
Singer, 2015).
We predict that international law will require all
IoT manufacturers to provide detailed information to
potential consumers about what data is recorded and
transmitted by their smart device. There are already
calls for Privacy-by-Design (Yu, 2016; Hospitality
Technology, 2016).
More Privacy-Related IoT News: The news
will report more privacy and security violations of
IoT, thereby raising public awareness of the problem.
This has already started to happen (Pultarova, 2016;
rt.com, 2016; Pauli, 2016; Matyszczyk, 2015)
Rising Demand for IoT Security: IoT “things”
will be secured more effectively. The more news sto-
ries about hacks appear, the greater the opportunity
for security companies to offer services to consumers
to secure their devices for them. Microsoft is already
moving into this arena (Weinberger, 2016). Since se-
curity and privacy are so interwoven when it comes
to IoT, the side effect of this move towards better se-
curity ought also to reduce the potential for privacy
invasion.
Kinds of Solutions: Privacy- and security-
preserving solutions will focus primarily on crypto-
graphic methods but the consumers will not be asked
to take deliberate action because they prioritise con-
venience over privacy protection.
6 CONCLUSION
As IoT spreads and permeates our daily lives, more
privacy challenges will emerge. Manufacturers are
currently sacrificing IoT owner privacy with impunity
and they will never police themselves. It is time for
consumers to start demanding better, and voting with
their wallets and purses. Future research should focus
on how to communicate these risks to John and Jane
Citizen. Moreover, we need to find ways to encourage
consumer participation in terms of demanding more
information about the collecting and transmitting of
their data and the data protection process the manu-
facturer of the device has put into place.
Yes, I know this IoT Device Might Invade my Privacy, but I Love it Anyway! A Study of Saudi Arabian Perceptions
203
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
We thank Lewis Mackenzie for his feedback on an
earlier draft of this paper.
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Yes, I know this IoT Device Might Invade my Privacy, but I Love it Anyway! A Study of Saudi Arabian Perceptions
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... However, given extensive arguments and assumptions that UM devices are deployed for wellbeing, users in such societies will be unperturbed about the degree of control they have on these devices. In Aleisa and Renaud's [2] study ...
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... Home consumers are presented with a variety of devices in the marketplace and are tasked with making adoption decisions based on few or no Information Technology (IT) skills or little knowledge. Consumers are often concerned only about a device's usefulness, and little consideration is given to device security ( Aleisa and Renaud 2017 ;Curtis 2019 ). The imbalance caused by the potential for data exposure and users' lack of innate privacy concerns can lead to the accidental compromise of sensitive information as well as seemingly innocuous behavioral information, such as purchase history and individual patterns ( Solove 2008 ). ...
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