Internet of Things Privacy: FTC chairwoman warns of risks

The Chairwoman of the Federal Trade Commission has offered stern warnings regarding privacy in relation to the Internet of Things in her opening remarks at CES 2015, reports SC Magazine.

Edith Ramirez stated that with an estimated 25 billion connected devices in 2015, people may need to watch out for ‘smart home hacking’ and other privacy issues. “Connected devices that provide increased convenience and improve health services are also collecting, transmitting, storing and often sharing vast amounts of consumer data, some of it highly personal, thereby creating a number of privacy risks,” Ramirez stated.

Business Cloud reports that Ramirez identified three key challenges faced by Internet of Things Devices when it comes to consumer privacy: ‘ubiquitous data collection’ (a ‘digital trail’ of personal information), ‘unexpected uses of consumer data’ (could private data be shared with employers, adversely affecting the individual?), and ‘heightened security risks’ (more devices that could be breached, especially when many Internet of Things devices are consciously low-cost, so with less budget for security checks.)

To this end, Ramirez urged Internet of Things manufacturers to ensure “security by design”, involving company risk assessments on their designs with an eye for security and privacy. Encryption, data minimization and continual monitoring of products throughout their lives would also be necessary steps, she argued.

Speaking to Ars Technica after her speech, Ramierez explained that her aim wasn’t to stifle product development, but to ensure that such advancements were made with thought for possible consequences: “We absolutely recognize that the Internet of Things has the potential to provide significant benefits to consumers, but it’s also important to be mindful of the significant privacy risks. As you have more devices connected to the Internet, you have more entry points for potential intrusion.”

“There’s a way to approach these issues that’s going to be thoughtful and going to be balanced,” she continued, adding: “I also think that [pushing for privacy and security is] going to engender consumer trust and will only help new industries like the internet of things to flourish.”

For more coverage from CES 2015, be sure to read Cameron Camp’s security coverage from the event: 5 Hot Topics, and 3 Things We Learned from CES 2015.

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