- FTC Announces “Concrete Steps” for IoT Privacy and Security
- March 31, 2015 | Author: Joseph J. Lazzarotti
- Law Firm: Jackson Lewis P.C. - Morristown Office
- As the vast array of internet-connected devices mushrooms, and technologies permit those devices to communicate with one another, calls for privacy and security can be heard. On the heels of a recent victory in the ongoing LabMD case, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced yesterday “concrete steps” businesses can take to enhance the privacy and security of IoT for consumers. According to FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez, “The only way for the Internet of Things to reach its full potential for innovation is with the trust of American consumers.”
Increasingly, computing devices are being embedded with capabilities to connect with one another via the Internet. The FTC report estimates that currently there are 25 billion of these devices worldwide. Many believe these technologies will yield immeasurable benefits including helping organizations to understand more efficient ways to do business, perhaps resulting in lower costs and risks. As the FTC notes, and many have experienced (even if not knowing about “IoT” specifically), IoT is already entrenched in our lives. For example, millions already use FitBit and other health and fitness monitoring devices, as have millions of others deployed these technologies in their home security systems and appliances.
The global consulting firm, McKinsey & Co., discussed a number of other examples of IoT at play today, such as:
- Pill-shaped microcameras travel through the human digestive system and send back thousands of images to pinpoint sources of illness.
- Farming equipment communicating with remote satellites and ground sensors to assess crop conditions and adjust farming techniques.
- Billboards assess the consumer profiles of passersby and change displayed messages based on those assessments
Enter the FTC. Consistent with its mission, the FTC’s report states that its focus is on IoT devices that are sold to or used by consumers, not in a business-to-business context, nor does it address broader machine-to-machine communications. Some of the concerns identified by the FTC come from a workshop it held in November 2013 - The Internet of Things: Privacy and Security in a Connected World. The risks that could harm consumers according to the FTC include:
- enabling unauthorized access and misuse of personal information;
- facilitating attacks on other systems; and
- enabling privacy risks from the collection of personal information, habits, locations, and physical conditions over time that companies might use to make credit, insurance, and employment decisions.
To address these risks, the FTC’s report makes a number of recommendations, with security being key. Below are some of these “recommendations””
- build security into devices at the outset - at the design stage - assess risks, collect the minimum necessary information;
- train employees about the importance of security;
- make sure third-party service providers maintain appropriate privacy and security protocols - “trust, but verify”;
- employ a “defense-in-depth” strategy to apply multiple layers of security to defend against a particular risk;
- stop unauthorized users from accessing a consumer’s device, data, or personal information; and
- monitor devices, update as needed to address developing risks.
Companies using these technologies should review the FTC report and guidelines and, where appropriate, consider applying them as they adopt IofT. While not currently mandated, many of these guidelines are based on existing principles, best practices and laws concerning the privacy and security of personal information.