Exploring Interpretations of Data from the Internet of Things in the Home

Brown, Michael; Coughlan, Tim; Lawson, Glyn; Goulden, Murray; Houghton, Robert J. and Mortier, Richard (2013). Exploring Interpretations of Data from the Internet of Things in the Home. Interacting with Computers, 25(3) pp. 204–217.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/iwc/iws024

URL: http://iwc.oxfordjournals.org/content/25/3/204.sho...


The ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) can be expected to radically increase the amount of potentially sensitive data gathered in our homes. This study explores the social implications of the presentation of data that could be collected within the household. In particular, it focuses on how ambiguities in these data, combined with existing interpersonal relationships, could influence social dynamics. Thirty-five participants were each presented with three separate household scenarios, involving ambiguous data that were collected and presented via near-future IoT technologies. Each participant was asked to respond to a series of open and closed questions about how they would interpret the data, how they would react to it and their general opinions of the technologies presented. Through qualitative and quantitative analysis of their responses, we contribute an understanding of how people interpret information about those around them. We find a common willingness to make inferences based on ambiguities within the data, even when participants are aware of the limitations of their understanding. We also find that sharing data produced via tagging of everyday objects raises a high level of privacy concern, and that, in a somewhat incoherent stance, users are more comfortable in sharing data publicly than in a targeted fashion with commercial organizations. Our findings also suggest that the age of the target user group has a greater effect on ease of use judgements than the nature of the technology, and we find some evidence that user’s interpretations can be biased by an individual’s age.

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