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FTC releases ‘Internet of Things’ report to address consumer privacy and security

On January 27, 2015, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released “Internet of Things: Privacy & Security in a Connected World,” to address the growth of connected devices, but also the privacy and security risks for consumers who are connected to this web of technology. In the report, the FTC provides a list of steps for businesses to take that will protect consumers’ privacy and security. Here are the FTC’s recommendations:

  • Build security into devices at the outset, rather than as an afterthought in the design process;
  • Train employees about the importance of security, and ensure that security is managed at an appropriate level in the organization;
  • Ensure that when outside service providers are hired, that those providers are capable of maintaining reasonable security, and provide reasonable oversight of the providers;
  • When a security risk is identified, consider a ‘defense-in-depth’ strategy whereby multiple layers of security may be used to defend against a particular risk;
  • Consider measures to keep unauthorized users from accessing a consumer’s device, data, or personal information stored on the network;
  • Monitor connected devices throughout their expected life cycle, and where feasible, provide security patches to cover known risks.

The FTC further recommends that businesses consider “data minimization” and only collect and retain consumer data for a specific time period (as necessary), and to allow consumers’ choice in how their information is used and shared.

The FTC said in its press release, “The Internet of Things is already impacting the daily lives of millions of Americans through the adoption of health and fitness monitors, home security devices, connected cars and household appliances, among other applications. Such devices offer the potential for improved health-monitoring, safer highways, and more efficient home energy use, among other potential benefits.” So what’s the concern? Connected devices raise huge privacy concerns for consumers, and without consumer trust, this innovative technology can’t reach its true potential. The FTC hopes to remedy that problem by encouraging businesses to truly protect consumer privacy.

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