What’s next for the IoT?
The Federal Trade Commission is looking into how to best use the internet of things to boost consumer awareness and engagement, while some lawmakers are pushing for better guidance for manufacturers on how to use the new technology.
The FTC has been trying to set up a task force to address how to make sure consumers know how to access the IoT, but there’s a long way to go before the agency gets around to that.
And as the Federal Communications Commission and other regulators wrestle with the transition to an era of connected devices, some members of Congress have suggested that the agency be focused on the broader issues of IoT and smart home security.
“We have to make the transition from the old paradigm of smart devices to the new paradigm of IoT,” Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.) told Bloomberg News in an interview.
“We have a long ways to go.
The Internet of Things is here, it’s here, and the consumer can and should understand how it works.”
That said, Marino said he’s hopeful the FTC could begin the process of creating guidance that will help manufacturers better navigate the increasingly complex and challenging task of integrating IoT into their products.
He said he has already spoken with a number of industry leaders and has been working to find ways to simplify IoT compliance and how the FTC should guide the process.
Marino is a member of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Telecommunications, Communications, and Consumer Technology, and he said he’d like to get more involved with that process.
“The FCC is not the first agency to have a task group on IoT,” Marino said.
“There’s already a taskforce on this.
It’s the FTC that is trying to make sense of this new technology, and I think we need to make it clear that we are not trying to be the new agency.”
One area that’s expected to be in focus is the IoT security.
The FTC is looking at ways to give manufacturers more information about how to protect devices and data, which could include giving them more control over what they transmit to and from the devices.
The agency also wants to get a handle on how the new devices will be used, so the FTC can make sure they are safe.
The FCC has also been working on a draft rule to make certain that IoT devices are not used for commercial purposes.
The FCC’s draft cybersecurity guidance was released in January and is designed to provide guidance on how a device can be used to track a user, track their movements, and track what their devices are doing, among other things.
The rule has been criticized for giving companies too much control over the IoT’s security.
Marino said that it should be more narrowly focused on protecting consumers.
“It is important to understand that there is nothing more dangerous to the public than a cyber-attack that could be used by the private sector or a hacker,” Marino wrote in a letter to the FCC, asking that it be changed to provide more clarity and less broad interpretation.
The rule has already been challenged in the courts, with several groups arguing that the FTC overstepped its authority when it proposed to require companies to keep track of who was connected to each of their devices.
“These regulations do not apply to consumer devices, such as smart TVs, smartphones, or tablets,” the group wrote in its lawsuit.
“These regulations apply to other types of devices such as automobiles, trucks, buses, boats, and airplanes, all of which are not connected to the Internet.”
The FCC will need to go beyond the guidance to be able to take any action, but the task force could help clarify the process for companies that want to integrate IoT into the products that they make, said Brian Mankowski, a senior research fellow at the University of California, Berkeley’s Center for Internet and Society.
“I would say that the taskforce is an important step, but it’s not the only step,” Mankowksi said.
The task force has also raised concerns that it could be a burden for consumers.
The filing from the FTC outlines a number different scenarios that could lead to consumer confusion and an inability to act quickly.
“In the absence of a clear set of regulatory standards, consumers will have little opportunity to understand the potential impacts of the IoT,” the task group wrote.
“Consumers are likely to be confused by the myriad of devices that could connect to their homes, and they may be unable to identify or use them.”
The FTC said it will also be looking at the impact of the technology on the environment and consumer security.
Mankowsi said that while he thinks the FCC should make sure that the technology is handled responsibly, the task forces focus on the technology could hinder that goal.
“This is not a technology that can be brought into the marketplace without significant changes to our regulatory framework,” Minkowski said.