Four Senators Request Hearing on Privacy and Security Issues

 
On October 20, 2014, four U.S. Senators sent a letter to the Chairman, Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), and Ranking Member, John Thune (R-SD), of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. The letter asked the Committee to hold an information-gathering hearing because “the proliferation of connected products is sparking a number of important policy questions related to consumer protection, security, privacy, technical standards, spectrum capacity, manufacturing, regulatory certainty, and public-sector applications, among many others.” The four U.S. Senators who signed the bipartisan letter are (1) Deb Fischer (R-NE); (2) Cory A. Booker (D-NJ); (3) Kelly Ayotte (R-NH); and (4) Brian Schatz (D-HI).

As a privacy advocate and lawyer who litigates invasion of privacy lawsuits for plaintiffs in Arizona and Colorado, I am especially pleased by this letter and what it represents. Leaders of the two most powerful political parties in the U.S. came together. They explained why they and their peers must make a stronger effort to understand how the Internet of Things has changed and will likely change our lives. They urged their peers to pay much more attention to how these changes have influenced and will influence the amount of money, time, and energy U.S. citizens and residents must devote to protecting against the erosion of their privacy rights.

I hope this will lead to more effective federal and state laws that will better deter illegal and unlawful invasions of individuals’ privacy and help individuals hold accountable people or businesses who illegally or unlawfully violate or infringe their privacy rights.

By Ed Hopkins, HopkinsWay PLLC. | © HopkinsWay PLLC 2014. All rights reserved.

View the actual letter here. The full body text of the letter is below.

Dear Chairman Rockefeller and Ranking Member Thune:

As you know, digitally-connected technologies, such as health wearables and home-connected devices, represent a rapidly evolving transformation of the Internet. The introduction of these innovative consumer products presents a wide range of cutting-edge policy issues impacting a broad set of businesses and industry sectors. International Data Corporation expects what some are calling the “Internet of Things” to generate global revenues of $8.9 trillion – with over 200 billion connected objects – by 2020. In anticipation of the opportunities and challenges this technological revolution will bring, we respectfully request the Senate Commerce Committee to schedule a general oversight and information-gathering hearing before the end of this year.

The proliferation of connected products is sparking a number of important policy questions related to consumer protection, security, privacy, technical standards, spectrum capacity, manufacturing, regulatory certainty, and public-sector applications, among many others. Last November, the Federal Trade Commission conducted a panel on some of these topics. The number and the scope of these issues demands our prompt attention so we can better understand the technologies and explore how best to preserve America’s global leadership position in innovation and economic growth. These issues are especially ripe for congressional attention as millions of Americans will be shopping for new tech products during the upcoming holiday season. Congress should engage on the issue cautiously and constructively, in a bipartisan fashion, and we appreciate your leadership in examining this topic.

Now is the time to start building a robust public record through testimony and questions. The Senate Commerce Committee has the most relevant jurisdiction over these matters because of its authority over the broadband economy and consumer protection issues. Smart policy can best result from an open, collaborative process and dialogue generated by our committee. For those reasons and others, we commit to working with you on an agenda for a public hearing at your convenience.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. We look forward to working with you.

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