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Let us look at the code running our devices, says Federal Trade Commissioner

Peter Sayer | Jan. 27, 2016
U.S. Federal Trade Commissioner Terrell Sweeny thinks consumers should be allowed to inspect the code running on their connected devices

"We've been having this debate for a long time in this country. We've had it in the crypto wars, for example," McSweeny said, referring to the U.S. government's attempts to impose a key escrow system for encryption in the 1990s.

"I'm personally opposed to government mandating this kind of thing," said McSweeny, adding that what makes things different this time around is the number of devices we're connecting to in our personal lives, and the amount of data we're putting on those devices.

Concern about who might have access to that data is slowing adoption of such technologies, she said.

And it's not just concern about demands from law enforcers: it's also worries about lax security and sloppy coding.

"I've spent a lot of time at hacker conferences looking at IoT security. I'm also a parent thinking in terms of baby monitors and toys, and I'm deeply worried about some of the security practices," McSweeny said.

Through the Office of Technology Research and Investigation (OTRI), the FTC is developing its in-house capabilities to research security vulnerabilities in products, she said.

That expertise will be useful far beyond individual investigations and enforcement actions, she concluded.

"Having more people who understand technology working on those issues in government and in public policy discussions is going to be incredibly important."

 

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