More transparency about the kinds of data IoT devices are collecting is also needed, said Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat who plans to cosponsor Markey's connected cars bill. Congress should explore legislation that more easily allows consumers to file class-action lawsuits for data breaches, he said.
Congress should also consider legislation that requires companies to follow best practices in cybersecurity, said Justin Brookman, director of the Consumer Privacy Project at the Center for Democracy and Technology. While the U.S. Federal Trade Commission has brought dozens of data security complaints against companies, it is facing court challenges on its authority to do so, he noted.
Several speakers at the hearing brought up recent concerns about the ability of smart TVs to capture conversations via their voice command features. Brookman also mentioned the cases where hackers have taken over webcams and broadcast videos online.
Congress, while considering a national breach notification law, should expand the consumer data covered by notifications to include nonfinancial information held in online accounts, he said. "Internet of Things devices reveal really sensitive stuff about us," Brookman added.
While some committee Democrats said they will explore legislation, representatives of the IoT industry urged Congress to go slow. Consumer confidence in the IoT is important, "but we must not overregulate in a way that would stifle innovation," said Michael Abbott, a general partner in the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.
Most of the panel's majority Republicans, and a handful of Democrats, agreed. The IoT is in early stages of its growth, and Congress shouldn't rush in to regulate, they said.
"Let's treat the Internet of Things with the same light touch that has caused the Internet to be such a great American success story," said Senator John Thune, a South Dakota Republican and committee chairman. "We should let consumers and entrepreneurs decide where IoT goes, rather than setting it on a Washington, D.C., directed path."
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.