The Federal Trade Commission is trying to become a stronger watchdog over brand new technologies like connected cars and smart homes.
The FCC just announced a new unit called the Office of Technology Research and Investigation, which will help “ensure that consumers enjoy the benefits of technological progress without being placed at risk of deceptive and unfair practices.”
The OTRI will succeed the FTC’s Mobile Technology Unit, which was launched in 2012 to oversee companies’ mobile practices. The FTC says it would like to expand its purview beyond mobile into areas including “privacy, data security, connected cars, smart homes, algorithmic transparency, emerging payment methods, big data, and the Internet of Things.”
With this new office’s announcement came a slew of job postings, all of which focus on technology research.
The FTC has historically been the “de facto privacy watchdog,” reports the Washington Post. But the Federal Communication Commission made headlines last month by reclassifying ISPs as “public utilities,” which many saw as a transfer of oversight from the FTC to the FCC. While the FTC didn’t make formal comments on this move, FTC Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen did say this reclassification meant the FTC can’t bring actions against ISPs.
Undoubtedly, there are a slew of issues the FTC will be able to sink its teeth into with this new unit. While the FAA is looking into commercial drone use, so too could the FTC now due to privacy claims. Not to mention the endless examples of companies potentially overstepping boundaries with questionable customer data collection.
So, with this announcement, we should expect to see more — and hopefully better — FTC reports and oversight on new technology markets.
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