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FTC Opens Tech Office To Protect Consumers In This Strange New Connected World

The FTC’s new office will aim straight for the Internet’s diciest issues: privacy, data security, big data, and The Internet of Things.

FTC Opens Tech Office To Protect Consumers In This Strange New Connected World
[Photo: Tony Savino/Corbis]

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is creating a new investigatory arm for its Bureau of Consumer Protections: the Office of Technology Research and Investigation, which will cover just about everything that makes us nervous about the Internet today, The Washington Post reports.

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According to the listing for available positions, the new FTC arm will be responsible for “privacy, data security, connected cars, smart homes, algorithmic transparency, emerging payment methods, big data, and the Internet of Things.”

This technology-focused consumer protections office couldn’t come at a better time. The booming Internet of Things, for example, has been portrayed as a wonderland of connected devices–but that access could be terrifyingly misused if that connected device is a pacemaker, says security expert Josh Corman. Or an Internet-connected car that could be remotely hijacked.

“The majority of the security industry has been focused on private sector, protecting a bank or credit cards,” Corman recently told Fast Company. “I’m thinking, ‘Guys, we can’t even secure credit cards with $80 billion of our best and brightest–why are we putting dependencies in areas that can kill people?'”

The Office of Technology Research and Innovation actually grows out of an earlier investigatory arm, the Mobile Technology Unit, which covered abuses exclusively in the mobile realm. The new office has its work laid out for it: in a report released in January, the FTC warned that makers of connected devices are leaving their users vulnerable to hacking and the misuse of their private information. The report sternly recommended that businesses opting to release or use products connected to the Internet adopt best practices when doing so–standards of security and privacy that keep data from leaking out, hackers from getting in, and customers safe.

[via The Washington Post ]