There are innumerable ways to die and now, a US government agency wants to discuss some new, internet-connected ones. The Consumer Product Safety Commission is now accepting public comments on “potential safety issues and hazards associated with internet-connected consumer products.” In short, please tell the government about your ideas for Final Destination-style, internet-of-things-related deaths.
The announcement on the Federal Register includes a few scenarios. Here they are, ranked:
- Devices may be compromised or malfunction and display “unexpected operating conditions,” ie, a Roomba speeding around your house much faster than what’s safe.
- A stovetop or grill could be hacked, then used to remotely start a fire and murder an unaware homeowner.
- Home safety systems may be either compromised purposely through hackers or accidentally through a failed software update. Safety measures like smoke alarms, motion detectors, etc. may fail, opening people up to hazards.
As “smart” devices become more deeply embedded in our daily lives, there’s no doubt they will be more involved in our deaths. Researchers have found a way to manipulate smart street lights and potentially cause horrible traffic jams or block ambulances during emergencies. Sex toys can be hacked and remotely controlled, creating new questions about consent. Luxury brands offer waterproof screens to watch smart TVs in the shower. Imagine a hacker setting the TV to show flashing lights that can trigger seizures while someone is in the bath. This is all before discussions of data theft or privacy. Smart homes collect immense amounts of data on your behaviour, even when you aren’t home.
Macabre humour aside, the CPSC seems to want to have a holistic discussion on IoT devices and safety regulations and understand how to prevent these scenarios. Is there a way to design failsafes to notify people about, say, a crucial update to their security systems? Will manufacturers shoulder this burden or do we need new regulations? And, perhaps most importantly, how do we get people to care?
You can submit your theories and concerns here to Regulations.gov. Keep in mind that submissions will be reviewed by the CPSC and published out in the open. The public hearing is scheduled for May 16th, while comments will be accepted online until June 15th.