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House lawmakers start caucus focusing on connected devices

A pair of House lawmakers are getting together to start a new congressional caucus on the world of connected devices known as the Internet of Things.

“It’s critical that lawmakers remain educated about the fast-paced evolution of the Internet of Things, and have informed policy discussions about the government’s role in access and use of these devices,” Rep. Darrell IssaDarrell Edward IssaREAD: The Republicans who voted to challenge election results Gingrich: Trump should attend Biden inauguration Rep.-elect Issa says Trump should attend Biden inauguration MORE (R-Calif.), who is founding the caucus with Rep. Suzan DelBeneSuzan Kay DelBeneDemocrats eye bill providing permanent benefits of at least K per child Washington state neighbors underscore internal Democratic tensions Lawmakers, officials stress need to expand broadband access MORE (D-Wash.), said in a statement.

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While many Americans may be familiar with the benefits of “smart” cars, watches and other devices that can hook up to the Internet, analyze information or connect with other machines, few have considered how the broader trend might change the way they live their lives. 

The same is true on Capitol Hill, where few lawmakers seem to have a firm grasp on how devices are becoming increasingly interconnected.

The new caucus aims to close that gap by educating fellow lawmakers about the ways that connected devices can transform people’s homes, transportation and health. While the benefits can be great, skeptics have also worried about the harm that hackers could do if they broke into the vast repositories of data gathered by those devices. 

“Policymakers will need to be engaged and educated on how we can best protect consumers while also enabling these new technologies to thrive,” DelBene said in a statement.

In the Senate, a number of lawmakers have pushed for the Commerce Committee to hold a hearing on the Internet of Things, but no such session has yet been scheduled. 

News of the new caucus was greeted warmly by the Internet Association, which represents a range of Web industry giants including Amazon, Google, Facebook and Netflix.

“The Internet is a tremendous driver of economic growth, and under the leadership of Rep. Issa and Rep. DelBene, the Internet of Things Caucus will be an important forum to promote policies that embrace innovation and new opportunities online,” trade group CEO Michael Beckerman said in a statement. 

Issa is the chairman of the congressional subcommittee on the Internet and Intellectual Property, and led the Consumer Electronics Association before entering Congress. DelBene spent a dozen years at Microsoft before coming to Washington.

— Updated with additional information at 1:22 p.m.