The FTC Reports on the Internet of Things: Things That May Invade Our Privacy

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 3.11.51 PMBy Eric Siebert

The Internet of Things arguably makes our lives easier, but in doing so, does it compromise other values we hold dearly? The Internet of Things is a system whereby objects that are commonplace in a normal lifestyle can connect to the Internet, enabling them to send and receive data to optimize or otherwise increase their abilities and functionality. With such increases in functionality, however, comes the ever-present risk that frequently accompanies changes in technology: Will this have a negative impact on our privacy? This is the very question the FTC sought to address in its report on the Internet of Things distributed last week. (We previously reported on the FTC’s preliminary examination of the Internet of Things here.) The new report discusses general ideas regarding the Internet of Things and sets forth best practices for businesses to follow in order to retain adequate consumer confidence in the products and the distributing companies themselves.

The Internet of Things presents many potential benefits to consumers. Among other things, it can be used to encourage and optimize energy efficiency throughout a household through integration with various appliances. It can also protect drivers on the roadway by warning drivers of various dangers, aiding in the development of autonomous vehicles (a topic previously discussed on this blog here and here). Further, the Internet of Things can help patients with medical conditions better communicate with their physicians to better manage their conditions. However, with such benefits, the FTC has also identified several security risks created by integration of the Internet of Things, namely: (1) enabling potential unauthorized access to personal information, (2) facilitating attacks on other systems, and (3) creating risks to personal safety. Continue reading