Senators push for ‘Internet of Things’ hearing

A bipartisan group of lawmakers on the Senate Commerce Committee wants Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) to hold a hearing on the millions of new connected refrigerators, cars and other devices.

The so-called “Internet of Things” is “sparking a number of important policy questions” about security and privacy, Sens. Deb FischerDeb FischerIvanka sells Trump childcare to Capitol Hill GOP to Obama: Sanction Chinese entities to get to North Korea Massachusetts demonstrates progress is possible on equal pay MORE (R-Neb.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kelly AyotteKelly AyotteSenate rivals gear up for debates WATCH LIVE: Warren campaigns for Clinton in NH Green group endorses in key Senate races MORE (R-N.H.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) wrote to Rockefeller and ranking member John Thune (R-S.D.) on Monday.

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“Congress should engage on the issue cautiously and constructively, in a bipartisan fashion, and we appreciate your leadership in examining this topic,” they wrote.

“Now is the time to start building a robust public record through testimony and questions. ... Smart policy can best result from an open, collaborative process and dialogue generated by our committee.”

The proliferation of “smart” appliances and machinery has exploded in recent years and could generate $8.9 trillion in revenue by 2020, they noted, with hundreds of billions of connected objects around the globe.

Given the rapid pace of change, some have worried that government oversight is getting left behind.

The possible hack of a home appliance or stolen data from a car’s GPS system, for instance, have inspired new fears about people’s digital safety. Additionally, some consumer advocates have said that people need to be better informed about how their data is being used, and whether their behavior is being used to help advertisers.

In addition to those issues, the rise of connected devices poses new challenges for managing the nation’s airwaves, because much of the technology relies on wirelessly connecting to the Internet. With concerns rising about a spectrum “crunch,” federal officials could be under more pressure to make sure the system is properly managed.

Last year, the Federal Trade Commission held a conference on the consumer privacy and security impacts of the connected devices. Congress, however, has yet to wade in.

Now is the right time for the Senate Commerce Committee to hold a hearing, the four lawmakers wrote, because "millions of Americans will be shopping for new tech products during the upcoming holiday season."