US House bill would direct Commerce Department to study IoT devices
- A bill in the U.S. House of Representatives would direct the U.S. Department of Commerce to conduct a study of devices connected through the Internet of Things (IoT) and produce a report outlining suggested regulations, best practices and guidelines for the industry.
- The State of Modern Application, Research and Trends of IoT Act, known as the "SMART IoT Act," received a hearing Tuesday before the Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. It is in the discussion draft phase and has not yet been put to a vote.
- During the hearing, lawmakers agreed it is just the "first step" toward formalizing the federal government’s relationship with IoT. Several legislators raised concerns over the level of cybersecurity and data protection in internet-connected devices.
This bill comes amid concerns from consumers and experts about the security and privacy of IoT devices. In his opening statement, Subcommittee Chair Rep. Robert Latta, R-OH, said IoT has the "potential to improve the lives of many Americans," but that "light-touch regulation" might be required for transparency and to prevent overlap between different stakeholders. Commerce is the main federal agency with jurisdiction over IoT regulations, while the U.S. Department of Transportation also has jurisdiction due to its role in autonomous vehicle (AV) and connected vehicle technology.
Several lawmakers spoke of the need for cybersecurity and greater data protection around IoT devices, especially after the recent data breaches at Facebook and subsequent recriminations on Capitol Hill. But the bill as drafted does not directly address privacy concerns, something that Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-MI, said would not work. "To say that we shouldn’t deal with privacy isn’t something I am comfortable with right now," she said. "Once you’ve been hacked and they have this data, you can’t put the genie back in the bottle."
While there was agreement on the usefulness of IoT connected devices, lawmakers spoke of the growing divide between rural and urban areas in America. Many consumers in rural areas are unable to access the high-speed broadband internet and phone data connections necessary to make IoT useful. Last week, a bipartisan group of senators urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to invest more in rural broadband. In her opening statement Rep. Janice Schakowsky, D-IL, said the technology must be used for the good of all. "The IoT has tremendous potential. We must work together to make sure that America benefits from that opportunity," she said.
Lawmakers agreed there is a need to update laws governing connected devices, especially as they become increasingly ubiquitous across urban and rural areas and start to play a leading role in diverse industries like agriculture, manufacturing and healthcare. "While America has changed, many of our regulations have not, and it’s time to look at replacing or updating many of our existing rules and policies that reflect the technologies of the last century," full committee chairman Rep. Greg Walden, R-OR, said in his opening remarks.
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