fails, is hacked, or acts with negative
or unintended consequences, who is
accountable, how, and to whom?
A high-profile example of this is
autonomous vehicles, which make
many decisions without “a human in
the loop.” We currently expect automobile companies to be accountable
if automotive systems, such as anti-lock brakes, fail. As cars begin to drive
themselves, who should be responsible for accidents? As systems take
on more decisions previously made by
humans, it will be increasingly challenging to create a framework for responsibility and accountability.
3. How do we promote the ethical
use of Io T technologies? Technologies
have no ethics. Many systems can be
used for both good and ill: Video surveillance may be tremendously helpful in allowing senior citizens stay in
their homes longer and parents to
monitor their newborns; they can also
expose private behavior to unscrupulous viewers and unwanted intrusion.
In his highly popular and visionary
books, Isaac Asimov posited four laws
of robotics1, 2 on the basic theme that
robots may not harm humans (or humanity), or, by inaction, allow humans
(humanity) to come to harm. Asimov’s
Laws provide a glimpse into the social
and ethical challenges that will need
to be addressed in the Io T. How do we
promote and enforce ethical behavior
by both humans and intelligent systems? Will we need to develop and incorporate “artificial ethics” into automated systems to help them respond
in environments when there are good
and bad choices? If so, whose ethics
should be applied?
Toward a Framework
for Thinking About Principles
and Policy for the Io T
What might a general Io T governance
model look like? In 2008, the Forum
for a New World Governance developed the “World Governance Index”
(WGI) focusing on peace and security,
democracy and the rule of law, human
rights, development and participation,
and sustainability. These areas provide
a roadmap for considering Io T governance. Mapping the WGI areas to the
Io T indicates that we will need:
˲ Policy for Io T safety, security and
privacy, requiring the development of
viable approaches promoting individ-
ual rights, data security, and trust, as
well as disincentives and penalties for
inappropriate behavior, corruption,
˲ A legal framework for determining
appropriate behavior of autonomous
Io T entities, responsible and account-
able parties for that behavior, and de-
termination of who can enforce com-
pliance, how, and on what grounds.
˲ Focus on human rights and ethical
behavior in the Io T, including a sense
of how these would be enforced. This
gets to the heart of the need for the Io T
to promote human well-being and con-
tribute to the advancement of society.
˲ Sustainable development of the Io T
as part of a larger societal and tech-
nological ecosystem, including its
impact on biological systems (for ex-
ample, 3D-printed organs, implants),
environmental systems, and natural
We need to lay the groundwork
now. The Io T should advance society
and not just technology. The first step
is to pursue the discussions, studies,
task forces, commissions, and pilots
that will help develop governance for
an empowering and enabling IoT.
Developing policy and legislation in
newsworthy and opportunistic areas
(for example, transportation) is es-
sential, but not enough. We need to be
thinking deeply now about broad Io T
use and deployment, and how it can
help create a more enlightened and
civilized society. If we wait too long,
we do so at our own risk.
Acknowledgment: Many thanks to
Danny Goroff, Jim Kurose, Theresa
Bourgeois, and colleagues at Google
for insightful comments on drafts of
1. Asimov, I. Robots and Empire. Doubleday, 1985.
2. Asimov, I. “Runaround” in I, Robot. Gnome Press,
3. Goodman, E. The Atomic Age of Data: Policy for the
Internet of Things. Aspen Institute Report, 2015.
Francine Berman is the Edward P. Hamilton Distinguished
Professor in Computer Science at Rensselaer Polytechnic
Institute, Troy, NY. She is an ACM Fellow.
Vinton G. Cerf is vice president and Chief Internet Evangelist
at Google. He served as ACM president from 2012–2014.
For more on the future of the Internet of Things,
see the “Inside Risks” column, p. 26.
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