On March 2nd, the Family Online Safety Institute convened an event to discuss the Internet of Things and its implications for safety, privacy, and security. The discussion bought together experts in the field in a panel debate. It featured Justin Brookman from the Center for Democracy and Technology, Henry Claypool, from the American Association of People with Disabilities, Karen Jagielski representing the Federal Trade Commission and Adam Thierer of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.
Stephen Balkam, CEO of FOSI, provided opening remarks and set the stage for the discussion. The Internet of Things incorporates many different devices but at its core it encompasses objects that are embedded with electronics, software, sensors and connectivity, which allow the ‘things’ to connect to the Internet. With all of the great opportunities that these technologies bring, there are concerns about the privacy and security implications, this has led to a specific report from the Federal Trade Commission published this year and a Congressional hearing in 2015 alone.
Karen Jagielski outlined the details of the FTC report. She spoke about the workshop that they held in advance of writing the document and some of the recommendations that they made. She focused on the importance of baking privacy and security into the development process, as well as the advantages of deidentified data. The report recommended baseline privacy and security legislation that would cover the Internet of Things, but would not be solely focused on it.
Adam followed Karen, and talked about the importance of allowing innovation to flourish, to avoid regulation that might have unintended consequences and stifle progress. He discussed the need to develop best practices, but did not think that that was a role for Government. He also highlighted the importance of education in protecting the security and privacy of consumers.
One of the many groups that will benefit from the Internet of Things is the disabled community, and Henry Claypool was there to draw attention to the opportunities that are offered. Connected fridges allow blind people to live independently, and connected cars permit those who would otherwise be isolated to participate more in their community. Any regulation must be cognoscente of these facts, and community engagement with industry on these topics is vital.
Finally, Justin spoke about the serious harms that could result from the mishandling of data and breaches that could occur. He talked about the importance of balancing the benefits with the risks, and the need for awareness and protection for all consumers. He highlighted the role that transparency has to play in creating informed consumers who are able to better manage their use and sharing of data.
Questions from the audience focused on the benefits of the technology, and all participants agreed that this was an incredibly exciting space. Everything that can be done to protect consumers, while ensuring innovation continues must be pursued.