What are the privacy, security, and consumer protection implications of the burgeoning Internet of Things?

A group of senators has called for a hearing to discuss the potential pitfalls for Internet connected devices like refrigerators and cars.

Sens. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) wrote to Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) asking for a hearing to discuss “smart” appliances and machinery, as the use of such products rapidly increases and as the holiday shopping season fast approaches.

“The introduction of these innovative consumer products presents a wide range of cutting-edge policy issues impacting a broad set of businesses and industry sectors,” the lawmakers wrote. “The proliferation of connected products is sparking a number of important policy questions related to consumer protection, security, privacy, technical standards, spectrum capacity, manufacturing, regulatory certainty, and public-sector applications, among many others.”

Citing statistics that the Internet of Things is expected to generate global revenues of $8.9 trillion with over 200 billion connected objects by 2020, the senators called for a general oversight and information-gathering hearing by the end of the year.

“The number and scope of these issues demands our prompt attention so we can better understand the technologies and explore how best to preserve America’s global leadership position in innovation and economic growth,” the legislators wrote. “These issues are especially ripe for congressional attention as millions of Americans will be shopping for new tech products during the upcoming holiday season.”

Lawmakers offered to help Senator Rockefeller prepare an agenda for public hearings so that a “smart policy” for products like health wearables and home-connected devices can be developed.

To read the letter, click here.

Why it matters: Governmental interest in the Internet of Things first arose last November when the Federal Trade Commission held a workshop on the topic. Panels discussed issues like Privacy and Security in a Connected World and Connected Health and Fitness and FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez, in her opening remarks, cautioned: “[w]ith really big data comes really big responsibility.” “Legislators need to catch up,” the senators wrote, and “Congress should engage on the issue cautiously and constructively, in a bipartisan fashion.”