The Ethical Debates Around Advertising with the Internet of Things – Aimed at Digital Marketers


In addition to non-existent data privacy, connected devices also have shockingly poor cybersecurity. We’re talking so poor that when the Atlantic journalist did an experiment, his bait wireless toaster got compromised within an hour from setup.

And in the case of IoT devices, cybersecurity might be more important than ever. Think of hackers taking control of pacemakers and insulin pumps to torture and kill users. Or kidnappers getting remote access of baby monitors to know when the child is left unattended. With physical devices perforating our lives, the potential for evil is as big as the potential for good.

The silver lining is that users can protect themselves from some of the cyberattacks. For example, a VPN router encrypts online traffic on all connected devices, including IoT. This means that even if the network is compromised, hackers won’t be able to see the stream of data coming in and out of devices. While these home-grown security measures are helpful, nothing will replace industry-wide regulations.

Ethics of using IoT for digital marketing

The problems with IoT pose a challenge to digital marketers. Is it ethical to use these inherently flawed devices in our business operations? On one hand, consumers might appreciate a more personalized approach. But if we’re being realistic, it’s more likely they’ll find it intrusive and voyeuristic.

As the volume of data surges, we might have to draw a line somewhere. We can decide that there is a difference between analyzing someone’s cookies and between peeping into their bedroom through a security camera.

Or maybe we already crossed this line? After all, you could argue that Internet surveillance has existed for a while now and it has been intrusive from the start. Integration with IoT can be seen as just another step down the same path.

Either way, it’s never too late to re-think your practices. Following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, many businesses stopped advertising on Facebook to boycott the platform. Passing on the IoT opportunities could be a preferred course of action for ethically-driven companies.


Now is the perfect moment to start thinking about the ethics of digital marketing integration with IoT. The technology is still in its infancy and best practices are being brainstormed, tested, and developed.

We need to start an industry-wide debate on the topic so when the time comes for IoT and digital marketing integration, we are ready. Instead of being reactive, we can take the lead and form our opinions ahead of the curve. Whatever our conclusions end up being, they should be informed.

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