Philips Uses the Internet of Things to Block Customers’ “Freedom to Innovate”

by Paul Alan Levy

The Internet of Things and the world of smart devices has been heralded by industry giants like Philips for the conveniences that it provides for consumers, while allowing companies the “freedom to innovate,” but privacy advocates have long warned about the capabilities that such systems have to invade consumer privacy. 

But a recent controversy involving Philips reminds us of another downside of too much connectedness – vendors can use  their access to our devices to attack our existing rights.  Without any warning to its users, Philips disseminated a software update that rendered its Hue lighting system unable to be operated with replacement bulbs provided by third-party vendors.  In effect, Philips used its remote control over machines sold to consumers to interfere with the consumers’ “freedom to innovate” by adapting their equipment to third-party parts.

In response to wide-spread condemnation, Philips has promised to send out a new software update that rescinds the non-interoperability restrictions.  But its customers, and others tempted by this “smart”technology, should heed the warning.

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