Security issues associated with the Internet of Things (IoT) and the government’s role in  protecting the security of personal data transmitted across IoT networks were spotlighted as main topics of discussion at a  hearing conducted by the Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday.

Lawmakers and witnesses from academia and the electronics industry agreed that, while significant  security and privacy risks exist with respect to the IoT, the government should refrain from  imposing heavy-handed regulations that could jeopardize investment in the rapidly-developing IoT  ecosystem. Committee chairman John Thune (R-SD) echoed that theme in opening remarks in which he  acknowledged that privacy and security issues “are real, but I urge policy-makers to resist from  jumping in headfirst” to enact rules “that could halt innovation.” Pointing to a recent CBS 60  Minutes broadcast that explored the potential danger of computer hackers taking over the driving  functions of IoT-connected cars, ranking committee member Bill Nelson (D-FL) argued that “the  benefit of [IoT] needs to be balanced against real concerns about privacy and the security of our  networks.” “No one is talking about over-regulating,” he added.

Douglas Davis, the vice president and general manager of Intel’s IoT group, admitted that a lack of  consumer trust could emerge as a barrier to IoT adoption as he called for the development of a  national IoT strategy with a “focus on security and interoperability as critical foundational  elements.” As he emphasized that “top down or one-size-fits-all regulation will limit innovative  opportunities,” Adam Thierer, a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason  University, recommended that “policy makers should encourage, but not mandate, privacy and security  by design.” Meanwhile, in reply to questions posed by Nelson about the voice command feature on  certain Samsung smart TVs and the right of consumers to opt in or out of the potential sharing of  their conversations through IoT-connected sets, Thierer quipped: “they don’t have to buy the TV.”