Office of Technology Research and Investigation

Graphic showing icons for computer, smart watch, car, home, mobile device and users connecting to a central internet hubThe Office of Technology Research and Investigation (OTech) is located at the intersection of consumer protection and new technologies. As a trusted source for research and information on technology’s impact on consumers, the Office conducts independent studies, evaluates new marketing practices, and provides guidance to consumers, businesses and policy makers. It also assists the FTC’s consumer protection investigators and attorneys by providing technical expertise, investigative assistance, and training. The Office is housed in the Bureau of Consumer Protection and its work supports all facets of the FTC’s consumer protection mission, including issues related to privacy, data security, connected cars, smart homes, algorithmic transparency, emerging payment methods, fraud, big data, and the Internet of Things.

For additional technology-related content, please visit the Tech@FTC blog. 

Help protect consumers through research. The FTC welcomes researchers to inform us of their latest findings by emailing papers to research@ftc.gov. Please note that the FTC does not offer compensation of any kind to research submitters and that submitted research may be made public by the FTC. If your research reveals a security vulnerability or otherwise contains information that could pose a risk of harm to the public, before submitting the research to the FTC, please contact Dan Salsburg, Chief Counsel and Acting Chief of OTech, at dsalsburg@ftc.gov or 202-326-3402.

Featured

IoT Home Inspector Challenge

The Federal Trade Commission announced today that it is challenging the public to create an innovative tool that will help protect consumers from security vulnerabilities in the software of home devices connected to the Internet of Things. The agency is offering a cash prize of up to $25,000 for the best technical solution, with up to $3,000 available for up to three honorable mention winner(s).

The FTC is asking IoT Home Inspector Challenge contestants to develop a tool that would address security vulnerabilities caused by out-of-date software in IoT devices. An ideal tool might be a physical device that the consumer can add to his or her home network that would check and install updates for other IoT devices on that home network, or it might be an app or cloud-based service, or a dashboard or other user interface.  Contestants also have the option of adding features such as those that would address hard-coded, factory default or easy-to-guess passwords.

 

FTC Releases New Report on Cross-Device Tracking

The Federal Trade Commission has released Cross-Device Tracking: An FTC Staff Report that describes the technology used to track consumers across multiple Internet-connected devices, the benefits and challenges associated with it, and industry efforts to address those challenges. The report concludes by making recommendations to industry about how to apply traditional principles like transparency, choice, and security to this relatively new practice. To read the report, please click here.

 

 


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If you are interested in an internship opportunity, please email techinternships@ftc.gov

Photo of OTech’s interns standing outside the FTC headquarters building with a drone

OTech’s interns conduct cutting-edge technical research at the heart of the FTC’s consumer protection mission. In the summer of 2016, our interns performed a variety of research on topics relating to the FTC’s fall technology series and changing consumer demographics workshop:

Anthony Masi: Anthony is a graduate student in Cybersecurity at New York University. He spent his summer studying the behavior of ransomware and the victim’s experience. He can now say that he has installed ransomware on government computers with the permission of the US government! Anthony presented his research at the FTC’s fall technology workshop on ransomware. Anthony’s research presentation begins at the 1:10 mark.

Chrysm Watson-Ross: Chrysm is a graduate student in Computer Science at the University of New Mexico. She examined privacy and security issues surrounding consumer drones. In the process, she gained real-world drone-flying experience! Chrysm presented her research at the FTC’s fall technology workshop on drones. Chrysm’s research presentation begins at the 0:15 mark.

Ioannis (Yannis) Spiliopoulos: Yannis is a graduate student in Computer Science at Columbia University. Together with Vincent Toubiana, a visiting fellow from CNIL, the French data protection authority, Ioannis examined whether different ethnic affinity groups on Facebook receive ads for different types of products and different terms. Yannis and Vincent presented their research at the FTC’s workshop on the Changing Demographics of the American Consumer. Their research presentation begins at the 1:20 mark.

Ian Klein: Ian is a combined undergraduate/graduate student studying Cybersecurity and Computer Science at Stevens Institute of Technology. During his time here, he researched the behavior of smart TVs, aiming to understand their privacy implications. He had one of the most productive summers ever spent watching TV. His research presentation begins at the 12:30 mark.

Interested in Interning with OTech during the Summer 2017? Email techinternships@ftc.gov Watch this space for more information!


Last updated: 12/19/2016