A lead Federal Trade Commission (FTC) official recently warned that "the Internet of Things, the term that we use for the phenomenon of connecting nearly anything – from cars to clothing to light bulbs – to the Internet... will add exponentially to information that we now refer to as big data, making it even bigger," and a bigger challenge to consumer privacy and fairness.
Speaking at the BitKom conference on September 25, FTC Commissioner Julie Brill suggested that, "Appropriate enforcement of data protection and privacy laws, by my agency and data protection agencies around the globe will" play an important role in the regulation of the Internet of Things, as well as improved "practices within businesses and better ways for consumers to exercise control over their information." In addition, "because much of big data analytics depends on collecting data from many different sources and using it for purposes that may be different from those for which it was collected, we must ensure that companies are accountable for using all of this data in a way that is consistent with consumers’ expectations. With so much happening outside the view of consumers, and such high degrees of sophistication needed to understand how different processing activities relate to one another, it is crucial for companies and regulators to be guided by fundamental privacy values as well as a sense of ethics – and for consumers to have strong, enforceable legal protections."
The FTC has already put its toes in the water of enforcement relating to the Internet of Things and, she said, the agency is preparing to flex "its enforcement authority to protect the personal data that will flow through the Internet of Things."
Although bigger datasets can provide "exciting" results for consumers, the attendant "complexity is often a result of rapid, decentralized development" than can temporarily obscure errors. "Companies," Brill concluded, "owe their customers a reasonable effort to keep their devices and data secure. As an enforcement official, it’s my job to help take action against companies that fail to do so."