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 FischerCongress readies for battle over nuclear policy Trump's pursuit of infrastructure deal hits GOP roadblock Why America needs the ability to track enemy missiles from space MORE (R-Neb.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerOvernight Health Care — Presented by Campaign for Accountability — Momentum builds for federal laws enshrining abortion rights | Missouri lawmakers approve bill banning abortions at 8 weeks | Warren unveils plan to protect abortion rights 2020 Dem Seth Moulton calls for expanding cannabis access for veterans Momentum builds behind push to pass laws enshrining abortion rights MORE (D-N.J.), Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteSinema, Gallagher fastest lawmakers in charity race New Hampshire senator to ask 2020 Dems to back repeal of state residency law Schultz recruiting GOP insiders ahead of possible 2020 bid MORE (R-N.H.) and Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzBullock: Running for Senate 'never really got me excited' Cruz asks Trump FAA pick to 'be pissed off' about Boeing crash deaths San Francisco becomes first city to ban facial recognition technology 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."