Senate hearing on Internet of Things emphasizes light regulatory touch

While a Senate hearing on the Internet of Things (IoT) hit on a variety of topics, including TV white spaces and vehicle-to-vehicle communications, there seemed to be a lot of bipartisan agreement that the government needs to apply a light touch to the space, reports Broadcasting & Cable.

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) kicked off the hearing Wednesday by saying the IoT may be the most important technology trend around, but it also brings complex policy questions. "We will need to be bold" in thinking of clever ways to release more spectrum, and security will be a crucial concern in the IoT ecosystem, he said.

He encouraged policymakers to resist the urge to regulate and to tread carefully and thoughtfully so that consumers and entrepreneurs will drive the IoT, not policymakers.

"Standing on the cusp of technological innovations that will improve both the safety and convenience of everyday items, we shouldn't let government needlessly slow the pace of new development," Thune said in a statement calling for the hearing. "By engaging early in this debate, Congress can ensure that any government efforts to protect consumers are tailored for actual problems and avoid regulatory overreach."

Meanwhile, Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) called for tough new regulations on cars. Markey plans to introduce a bill that will focus on security standards and the data collected by connected automobiles, Computerworld reports.

His legislation would require makers of wireless access points on connected cars to use penetration testing technologies and require collected data to be encrypted. The legislation also stipulates that the car manufacturer or a security vendor must be able to detect and respond to hacking attempts in real time.

Earlier this week, Markey released a report that said "security measures to prevent remote access to vehicle electronics are inconsistent and haphazard" across all car makers and many do not seem to be aware of the risks.  

Besides lawmakers, the IoT hearing featured panelists that included Justin Brookman, director of the Consumer Privacy Project Center for Democracy & Technology; Lance Donny, CEO of OnFarm; and Adam Thierer, a senior research fellow at George Mason University's Mercatus Center.

The hearing came after a Federal Trade Commission report in January that recommended companies adopt best practices for IoT devices and that any IoT-specific legislation would be premature "given the rapidly evolving nature of the technology." The report called for strong data security and breach notification legislation and recommended companies consider data minimization--limiting the collection of consumer data and retaining it only for a set period of time rather than indefinitely.

For more:
- see this FCW article
- see this Broadcasting & Cable story
- see this Computerworld story
- see the webcast

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