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 FischerWhy Democrats are pushing for a new nuclear policy Trade official warns senators of obstacles to quick China deal Sasse’s jabs at Trump spark talk of primary challenger MORE (R-Neb.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerSanders expected to announce exploratory committee next week Bill Maher to Dems: ‘Let’s not eat our own’ in 2020 Dems ready aggressive response to Trump emergency order, as GOP splinters MORE (D-N.J.), Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteUS, allies must stand in united opposition to Iran’s bad behavior American military superiority will fade without bold national action Five possible successors to Mattis MORE (R-N.H.) and Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzTrump defends using DOD funds on border wall: 'Some of the generals think that this is more important' Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by America's 340B Hospitals — Push for cosponsors for new 'Medicare for all' bill | Court lets Dems defend ObamaCare | Flu season not as severe as last year, CDC says Dems unveil bill to let VA doctors prescribe 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."