Contracting for the ‘Internet of Things’: Looking into the Nest
29 Pages Posted: 2 Feb 2016
Date Written: February 1, 2016
The world of the ‘Internet of Things’ (‘IoT’) is just one manifestation of recent developments in information and communication technologies (‘ICTs’), closely tied to others, including ‘cloud computing’ and ‘big data’. For our purposes, the ‘Thing’ in the IoT is any physical entity capable of connectivity that directly interfaces the physical world, such as embedded devices, sensors and actuators. In considering IoT contracts, this paper adopts a case study approach, examining the complexity of IoT through the lens of a specific product: the Nest connected thermostat, part of the Nest Labs business and owned by Google. We focus on the ‘legals’ of Nest (contractual documents, licences, etc.) to provide a case study of IoT complexity. After touching on some general contract law issues in relation to the IoT supply chain, we examine the rights and obligations represented in these legals and discuss the extent to which, collectively, they present a coherent and comprehensible private law framework. We then consider the extent to which certain statutory regimes may treat IoT contracts in terms of addressing two characteristic contractual concerns: liability attribution and unfair terms. Our main conclusion is that the world of IoT demonstrates a need to consider recasting the concept of product to reflect the frequent inextricable mixture of hardware, software, data and service.
Keywords: Internet of Things, IoT, smart home, Google, Nest, cloud, contracts, contract law, liability, product liability, unfair terms, applicable law, jurisdiction, defective products, Boston Scientific, security, privacy, data protection, Terms of Service, privacy policies.
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