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Congress probes Internet of Things privacy, security

Kenneth Corbin | July 31, 2015
With billions of new sensor-enabled devices coming online each year, lawmakers and regulators have been considering a host of security and privacy questions arising from the so-called Internet of Things (IoT).

To be sure, no one among the witnesses was appealing for lawmakers and regulators to turn a blind eye to the burgeoning IoT market.

But their calls for action tended to run along the lines of what the government could do to spur on IoT growth, including policies to free up more wireless spectrum to boost the capacity of the mobile networks that are carrying much of the traffic, and "take some of the pressure off a very crowded field," as Shapiro puts it.

"The Internet of Things, you should know, exists because of smartphones," he says.

Shaprio observed that the Federal Trade Commission has been evaluating the IoT sector for potential privacy and security issues, among other concerns, but instead of pushing for prescriptive rules, has been content to leave enforcement to a case-by-case basis.

Shapiro also put in a plug for a scaling back federal surveillance programs, noting that many of the same vendors looking to promote IoT technologies have been tarred in foreign markets by the perception that data stored in U.S. facilities is subject to unfettered government snooping.

"On the government side, we've been burned pretty seriously as an industry to the tune of billions of dollars of sales in Europe," Shapiro says. "Other countries are using the fact that our government took information. It's a total competitive disadvantage now to say that cloud service and things like that should not be based in the United States -- you know, they're not secure, the government can take the information. It's been very harmful to the U.S. technology industry and it's been used against us."


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