House Talks 'Internet of Things,' Data Privacy

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y. Lauren Victoria Burke/AP

Representatives discussed how data could be both useful to consumers -- and also a potentially risky asset.

The Internet of Things could be more dangerous than consumers think when they install Nest thermostats or other convenient digital devices, some members of Congress argued during a recent hearing. 

"The time of the 'Dick Tracy' watch is here," said Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, referring to the American comic strip character's radio-enabled wristwatch. 

During a Wednesday House judiciary committee hearing on the Internet of Things organized by the Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet, representatives and witnesses discussed how the proliferation of data-driven devices could be both useful to consumers -- and also a potentially risky asset. 

With cars, public transportation systems and consumer devices constantly collecting information about users, "unless cities integrate strong security . . . [they are] vulnerable to attack," Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said. He mused later, "What do these companies do with the massive amount of data?"

During a question-and-answer session, Gary Shapiro, president of the Consumer Electronics Association, noted that some consumers choose to give up their own data in exchange for improved services.  

"In the automobile [industry], hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of consumers are already choosing to give up their data to insurance companies in return for a lower insurance rate," he said. 

Shapiro argued the government should not necessarily stifle tech companies' data collection. "There's so much happening from an innovation point of view," he added.

But it's Congress that "needs to set the expectation of privacy for individuals that have shared their information with different entities," Poe said during the hearing. He added he was concerned providers might share that information both with nongovernment entities and also with the government. 

"We should update the [Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986] law," which outlines that information stored in the cloud is private for six months, "but six months and one day, the government can have it and there's no expectation of privacy," Poe said.

During the hearing, Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., asked witnesses to discuss their approach to sharing consumers' geolocation data with outside groups, such as law enforcement agencies.

"This an issue that Congress has to step in on," said Morgan Reed, executive director of trade group ACT, the App Association. "The problem comes when I have to tell a customer, 'I don't know'" when they ask which of their data could be passed along to the government."

The United States' data-sharing policies could affect privacy policies abroad, he added. 

"If the U.S. government says, 'we have access to any cloud data at any time . . . regardless of where the data is stored and who [owns it],' we have to expect that Russia will want to same privileges from our companies . . . that China will want the same privileges," Reed said. 

Shapiro emphasized "history has shown that giving a government a backdoor is not the best approach as technologies evolve quickly," but that "when a super crisis evolves, I think you'll see companies step up and try to help government."

The judiciary committee hearing is just the most recent of several congressional motions on the topic in the past several months.

In June, a bipartisan group of senators urged the Government Accountability Office to examine the Internet of Things, focusing on questions such as "What is the federal government's experience using the Internet of Things?" and "Are federal agencies coordinating on the Internet of Things oversight?"

In March, the Senate passed a resolution pledging to use the Internet of Things to improve services to consumers and to bolster the domestic economy. 

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.