On November 19, 2013, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) hosted “the Internet of Things” (“IoT”) Workshop to explore potential consumer privacy and security concerns involving the flow of data across new technologies. “IoT” is a term that describes the exchange of data enabled by everyday devices. Industry stakeholders and consumer advocates came together to discuss both the impact increased connectivity will continue to have on privacy and lifestyles and ways to ensure personal data is protected. Panel topics included “The Smart Home,” “Connected Health and Fitness,” “Connected Cars,” and “Privacy and Security in a Connected World.”

Chairwoman Edith Ramirez began the workshop with opening remarks that highlighted the benefits and ramifications that the IoT can have for consumers. She noted that while the workshop would shed light on benefits and risks associated with increased connectivity of everyday devices, the FTC’s ultimate goal was to address how to allow for continued use of devices in a manner that overcomes privacy and security issues. She identified three core elements of the FTC guidelines for privacy in the collection of data: (1) privacy by design; (2) simplified consumer choice; and (3) transparency. Chairwoman Ramirez concluded by encouraging companies to follow these guidelines when dealing with the collection of data to ensure consumers are informed and protected.

FTC Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen also addressed the workshop. She commented on the potential the IoT has to benefit consumers and stated that the best approach the FTC can take regarding consumer privacy concerns is “informed action” —namely, (1) conducting policy  research and development, (2) educating consumers and businesses, and (3) using traditional enforcement tools.

Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, delivered closing remarks, urging industry to take the lead to rethink the framework and to place privacy and data security at the forefront of new products. She concluded by stating that the FTC is not proposing new regulations on this matter, but is preparing a report (that will include some best practices) covering the workshop and related issues.