Get smart?

Share This Page

The people with really cool glasses and fancier gadgets than the rest of us call it "the Internet of Things" — the fact that everyday devices are starting to communicate with each other and with us.  Already we can use a smartphone to start the car, turn on the AC before we get home, and have the doctor monitor the trajectory of our blood pressure in traffic.  But what if when we drive near a grocery store, our refrigerator lets us know we’re low on milk?  Would that be convenient?  Disconcerting?  Or maybe a little bit of both?  That's what we're talking about and we'd like hear what you're discussing around the national water cooler.

In preparation for a workshop in Washington, D.C., on November 19, 2013, FTC staff is asking for your comments about the next age of connectivity.  Technologies like this can make daily tasks a lot more convenient, but are there consumer privacy and data security issues that should be considered, too?  Here are some of the questions we hope you’ll weigh in on:

  • What’s next in connectivity?  What products and services are on the horizon?
  • Are there particular kinds of technology that serve as useful case studies for the issues we should be talking about?
  • How is all this connecting coming about?  RFID?  Barcodes?  Wireless?
  • Who’s who in the smart ecosystem?  What kinds of companies are taking the lead? 
  • How are consumers benefitting from smart technology?
  • Are there unique privacy and security concerns associated with smart technology and the data collected?
  • How should privacy risks be weighed against potential benefits?  Can and should de-identified data be used for other purposes like healthcare decision making or energy efficiency?  Why?  Why not?  Discuss among yourselves.

“Battlestar Galactica” fans can relax.  We’re not talking about the Revenge of the Cylons here.  But we think there are questions that merit a frank discussion.

So please give some thought to the topics you'd like to see on the agenda at the workshop and email your suggestions to by June 1st.  (That's I-o-T as in Internet of Things.)  And mark your calendar for the November 19th.



Great Article! Wonderful questions and insight! It reminds me of a recent broadcast done by a major news source where a professor at a leading tech university demonstrated that he could “hack” into a car’s computer system using the sim card that onstar uses to communicate with their call centers. Once he hacked into the system he was able to override the controls and control the car remotely. He then demonstrated he could make the car brake on command, accelerate, and even kill the engine all on command. This raises many concerns from a terrorist standpoint. Also from a vandalism stand point. New generations always grasp this technology way faster than anyone else. What is to say there will not be tech hoodlums hacking into our cars, cell phones, security systems and wreaking havoc? I think we need some regulation into the tech industry to secure our right to privacy according to the constitution. Also we need regulations that hold the companies that make this technology accountable for implementing extreme security to protect the end users.
Before we start talking about all the cool applications Tech can give us. We MUST discuss Infrastructure. 99% of all "To Home" or "To Business" Internet connections are done over aging and decaying copper lines. Doesn't matter if we are talking about "Broadband" or "DialUp" internet connections, its all done over copper. The grants many companies received over the last 20 years to upgrade infrastructure, which was meant for Fiber build outs, was used for Copper buildouts and fiber trunking only. Google's recent Total Fiber service shows exactly what is needed nationwide. As demands for both access and speed go up, copper just can't keep pace. For that fact because of the properties of copper wiring Services like Time Warner or CableVision and others who offer high speed internet access, can't actually provide the speeds advertised most of the time. In my case for example. I use Time Warner's Roadrunner service. I pay for a 5mbps upload and 5mbps download connection. My actual real world results are 1.5mbps download at most and around 500kbps upload speeds. Useable but not what I am paying for and there isn't anything they can really do because its a result of the copper connections. It should be noted that the U.S. is really lagging behind in internet infrastructure compared to Europe. Most european nations have 1gb or higher connections "To Home" and "To Business" at relatively the same costs as what Americans are paying for slower copper connections. A dedicated program needs to be put in place and funded to begin a nationwide ground up rebuilding of out communication infrastructure. Replacing all the outdated copper with Fiber Optic cable.
I'm glad you are having this discussion. I personally don't have bluetooth or many of the "smart" devices mentioned. Having said that, I think regulation needs to be greatly increased for standard e-mail. I have more than one e-mail account; I get no spam on one because the provider blocks all junk e-mail. On my other account, I receive repeated spam from the same sources, despite repeated attempts to block it or report it as a phishing scam. I fully agree with Chris C. that regulations must be changed; all e-mail providers should be mandated to delete all junk mail upon request. It would be helpful to have a consumer panel at the upcoming meeting as well as ongoing consumer surveys to find out what kind of security issues are most problematic.
Good Article.. Its the fact that we use technology in our daily life in various ways which makes our life easier and smarter.I am looking forward to see more technology involvement in public health service so that we can save precious life of peoples with the help of technology.
I was unable to participate in your Twitter chat of the 17th April because I was unable to access my e-mails for more than four weeks. I will update my account information to ensure appropriate delivery to me.
I will give some thought to questions raised here.I will get back to you before 1st of June.
Comments are due June 1, a Saturday. Does that mean they will be accepted when the FTC is open for business on Monday, June 3?

Add new comment

Comment Policy

Privacy Act Statement

It is your choice whether to submit a comment. If you do, you must create a user name, or we will not post your comment. The Federal Trade Commission Act authorizes this information collection for purposes of managing online comments. Comments and user names are part of the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) public records system (PDF), and user names also are part of the FTC’s computer user records system (PDF). We may routinely use these records as described in the FTC’s Privacy Act system notices. For more information on how the FTC handles information that we collect, please read our privacy policy.