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 FischerDebra (Deb) Strobel FischerEPA signs off on rule exempting farmers from reporting emissions GOP senators introduce resolution endorsing ICE The real reason Scott Pruitt is gone: Putting a key voting bloc at risk MORE (R-Neb.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerRNC spokeswoman: Who is more unhinged - Hirono, Avenatti, or Spartacus? Ex-White House official revises statement to Mueller after Flynn guilty plea: report CNN editor: Booker's 'groping incident' 'different' from Kavanaugh allegation MORE (D-N.J.), Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteGOP mulls having outside counsel question Kavanaugh, Ford Pallbearers, speakers announced for McCain's DC memorial service and Capitol ceremony Tributes pour in for John McCain MORE (R-N.H.) and Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzOvernight Energy: Warren bill would force companies to disclose climate impacts | Green group backs Gillum in Florida gov race | Feds to open refuge near former nuke site Warren wants companies to disclose more about climate change impacts Congress just failed our nation’s veterans when it comes to medical marijuana MORE (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."