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FTC Head Calls for Greater Transparency on Data Collected by Internet of Things

Ramirez called for greater security of the personal data collected by connected devices.

Federal Trade Commission

Amid the euphoria over connected devices at CES in Las Vegas, Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Edith Ramirez injected a note of caution.

Ramirez said the proliferation of Internet-connected gadgets — from home thermostats to fitness bands to scores of other products on display — raises concerns about the personal information that is being collected, how it’s being used and whether it is adequately secured. She used the stage of the industry’s largest trade show Wednesday to call for greater clarity about these data collection practices and vigilance in protecting this information.

“Consumers are going to be slow to take up these products if issues of privacy and security are of a concern,” Ramirez said.

Ramirez’s remarks reflect the conclusions of an FTC report about the Internet of Things, which recognized the benefits of connected medical devices that allow consumers with serious conditions to work closely with their physicians to manage their diseases or smart cars that alert the driver to road hazards ahead. But it also identified potential harm from the unauthorized use (or misuse) of personal information in the form of companies tapping this data to make insurance or employment decisions.

These same consumer concerns about sharing personal information with corporations is reflected in a new Pew Research report, which revealed a sizable number of adults who said they were confused by privacy policies and discouraged by the amount of time and effort needed to figure out the implications of sharing their data.

“It’s clear, based on this research, that consumers care deeply about it,” said Ramirez.

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