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 FischerA guide to the committees: Senate GOP considers ways to ‘modernize’ endangered species law GOP senator turns to equal pay for women, paid leave MORE (R-Neb.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kelly AyotteKelly AyotteLewandowski saw no evidence of voter fraud in New Hampshire NH governor 'not aware’ of major voter fraud Former NH AG: 'Allegations of voter fraud in NH are baseless' MORE (R-N.H.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) wrote to Rockefeller and ranking member John Thune (R-S.D.) on Monday.
“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."