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Federal Trade Commission to Host November Workshop on the “Internet of Things”

On November 19, 2013 in Washington, D.C., the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) will hold a public workshop on the “Internet of Things”—the emerging world of devices that communicate with each other and with people via the Internet. The Internet of Things has the potential to be a massive market of devices with varied tasks that include everything from monitoring an individual’s vital signs and communicating them to a doctor’s tablet, to measuring the amount and age of milk in the fridge at home. In the past year, this quickly developing area has garnered press attention for both its benefits and potential privacy and security risks.

The FTC’s public workshop will focus on the consumer privacy and security issues this new set of technologies raises and will feature experts and other interested players in the space. In advance of this workshop, the FTC called for public comments and asked questions such as “What are the various technologies that enable this connectivity?” and “How should privacy risks be weighed against potential societal benefits, such as the ability to generate better data to improve health-care decision-making or to promote energy efficiency?” Those comments were due June 1st.

As the Internet of Things develops, we continue to monitor the potential security and privacy issues raised by new technologies and business applications in this space. As we see it, here are a few issues that technology companies, consumer advocates, and regulators will need to address within the Internet of Things:

  • As users begin to fill their lives with these easy-to-activate devices, there will be challenges to providing consumers with meaningful notice of how their information is collected and shared.
  • The seamless way in which Internet of Things devices will connect and communicate also highlights the importance of providing information about uses of consumer information and the parties or devices that receive it in a transparent and understandable manner. Determining what transparency means in the Internet of Things context will be key.
  • There may also be challenges providing consumers with access to their data, as there may not be a direct relationship between a consumer and a device, and information from one device may be shared with other devices and companies.
  • Since many Internet of Things devices will continually communicate consumer information via the cloud, and parties must ensure the security of this data both while in transit and at rest.
  • Finally, the role design will play in addressing these challenges will need to be examined.

Here’s some interesting reading on the topic:

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