The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced Monday that it would be converting its “mobility technology unit” into a newly created division it’s calling the Office of Technology Research and Investigation (OTRI).
“The FTC says the new unit will work to ensure that companies protect consumer privacy in the post-digital age, as well as the security of their personal data as credit card breaches at large companies become increasingly common. The agency says the OTRI also will keep an eye on every facet of technology, including connected cars, smart homes, big data and “emerging payment methods” like the iPhone’s new payment feature, Apple Pay.” (Source: International Business Times, March 23, 2015, The Internet Of Things: Government Gets Ready For A More Connected World With New FTC Division, emphasis added).
According to news reports, the mobile technology unit (out of which the OTRI is emerging) already has about 15 lawyers and technologists “who are expected to shift over to the new office. The commission also plans to hire two new staff members and a handful of technology interns,” said Ashkan Soltani, the FTC’s chief technologist. (Source: Nextgov.com, March 23, 2015, FTC Launches Investigative Arm to Tackle Internet of Things, Big Data, emphasis added).
“The public should expect an uptick in the amount of new research coming from the new office, Soltani said. These will probably be similar to the mobile unit’s reports, he said, citing a series of reports issued by the agency beginning in 2012 examining privacy concerns surrounding mobile apps targeted to children. Soltani also said the agency will blog more about its findings. Among the areas the new office will take up are the Internet of Things and so-called smart home technology.” (Source: Id., emphasis added).
The FTC has been active and vocal in its engagement in IoT so far, but with this announcement and the creation of the OTRI, the agency has left little doubt of its intention to act as the IoT regulatory body in the U.S., at least with consumer-facing products and services. Enterprises in all industries will do well to pay close attention to the research reports and blog posts to follow, as those materials will no doubt provide insight into, as well as the foundation for the enforcement and regulatory actions that will soon follow.