Senate Holds IoT Hearing

The Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation met to discuss how the U.S. Congress can foster the development and proliferation of IoT technologies in a way that neither harms consumer privacy nor stifles innovation.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor

Thierer reasoned that the market will dictate which companies fail and which lose, based on how well they protect consumer privacy. But the Center for Democracy & Technology's Brookman noted that existing laws, since they are focused narrowly on protecting financial data, are insufficient to ensuring consumer privacy in a world of IoT devices, which may collect and share a wide range of personal data with third parties.

The FTC has been issuing a number of reports about the Internet of Things and data security, and while it has not proposed specific legislation to regulate IoT technologies, it does back general technology-neutral data-security legislation.

Douglas Davis, speaking at the panel
During the hearing, several senators cited concerns about Samsung's ability to collect consumers' conversations recorded through the voice-recognition function of its Internet-connected television, and to forward those recordings to third-party partners. The panelists were split when asked if that kind of data collection and sharing should be something that consumers should have to opt into, or if it should be a default function from which they must opt out.

Committee member Senator Ed Markey released a report on Monday that he said exposes significant insecurities in the ways automakers are deploying IoT-related features in new cars. According to Markey, only two out of the 16 automakers interviewed indicated that they are capable of responding to hacking attacks on embedded communications systems in real time. "Thieves no longer need a crowbar to break into your car," he said, "They just need a smartphone."

The subject was the focus of a 60 Minutes special that aired last week, during which researchers from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) demonstrated how hackers could compromise not only a car's communication systems, but also its functions—including braking and acceleration. Markey said he plans to introduce legislation that would call on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the FTC to require automakers to submit to data-security tests, the results of which would appear on cars' sales stickers, alongside fuel-consumption data and safety certifications.

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