FTC chief sounds privacy alarm over "Internet of Things"

07 Jan 2015


While consumer electronics companies had been celebrating a coming bonanza of health trackers, connected cars and "smart" home appliances, the head of the Federal Trade Commission had been pressing the tech industry to ensure protection of consumer privacy, AP reported.

Edith Ramirez, the chairwoman of the Federal Trade CommissionPowerful networks of data sensors and connected devices, dubbed the "Internet of Things," would collect a vast trove of information that representing "a deeply personal and startlingly complete picture of each of us" according to Edith Ramirez, the chairwoman of the Federal Trade Commission.

The information would include people's finances, health and even religious leanings, she said, yesterday at the consumer electronics trade show, International CES, at Las Vegas.

Connected consumer devices represented a growing market worth billions of dollars and a  host of "smart" TVs, health monitors and other gadgets were on display during the week-long show in Las Vegas.

She called on global electronics companies, internet giants and tech startups at the show to make data security a priority as they built new products. She further called on companies to give consumers greater control over how data was used, and to collect only the data that was necessary for a product to perform its function.

Privacy advocates had earlier called for the steps to be taken, and though Ramirez did not propose specific regulations, her remarks underscored the Obama administration's concerns over consumer privacy.

Meanwhile, recode.net reported that while connected home devices or cars, health trackers and other wearables could be useful tools for consumers, the collection of personal data by the devices had a number of regulators worried.

Ramirez and other FTC officials had been trying to raise awareness over the past few years among consumer electronics and tech companies about the privacy and security concerns inherent in new smart home or car technologies, wearables and other new Internet of Things gadgets.

The agency last year conducted a day-long summit about possible regulation of Internet of Things devices and a report of FTC's findings was expected any day now.

Although the FTC had no authority to enact new regulations for Internet of Things devices, it could use its authority to stop unfair trade practices and ensure companies complied with their privacy policies.

Ramirez yesterday reiterated her call to tech and consumer electronics companies to take three steps things to protect consumers - integrate security  protections into new gadgets, collect and store the least amount of data possible and give consumers more information and choice about what was done with their data.

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