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Internet of Things Privacy Climbs Up FTC Priority List

The consistent achievements in technological innovation cannot be described as anything less than life-changing. From wearable health trackers, to smartcars and smarthomes, to the revolution of the smartphone, these technologies make our lives simpler and can impact nearly every aspect of life.

But as these technologies expand and diversify, federal officials are sounding alarms as to the potential for devastating effects.

Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Edith Ramirez spoke at the International CES trade show this week to the possible impact of our gadget-heavy lives, with emphasis on consumer privacy and data protection.

“In the not to distant future, many, if not most, aspects of our everyday lives will be digitally observed and stored,” Ramirez said during a CES panel. But the devices that obtain that information are also “collecting, transmitting, storing and often sharing vast amounts of consumer data, some of it highly personal, and thereby creating significant privacy risks.”

This is not the first time the FTC has warned against negative impacts from these technologies. Last year, the watchdog held a summit to debate potential regulation of the so-called Internet of Things devices; a report on the topic is set for release by the FTC in the coming days.

While the agency does not have the power to enact new regulations for IoT devices, it can enforce its privacy policies on technology conglomerates and encourage the industry and Congress to adopt stricter consumer privacy rules.

On Tuesday, Ramirez called for companies to install security protections on new products, and to store the least amount of consumer data necessary. She also called for greater consumer choice in how much, and which, information is collected by these gadgets.

Studies, however, suggest that consumers, though concerned about privacy, are becoming more and more willing to share their information online.

Reports say the chatter regarding privacy and the Internet of Things revolution on Capitol Hill demonstrate just how deep the technology has infiltrated our markets. According to re/code, there were an estimated 200 million machine-to-machine devices online by the end of 2013; within the next five years, there could be four times as many.

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