Currently, there are about 8.4 billion connected devices worldwide, up 31 percent from 2016 according to Gartner’s estimates. The consumer segment is the largest user base of these devices with 5.2 billion units being utilized in 2017. These devices represent 63 percent of the overall number of present applications. We can only expect these numbers to continue growing exponentially. These astonishing statistics show a radical shift in how consumers are receiving and transmitting data about themselves. However, with this technological advancement comes numerous privacy issues.
Last month, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and Congress held a workshop and hearing on the opportunities and challenges facing the world of the Internet of Things (IoT). The FTC and NHTSA’s workshop was on connected cars and the privacy and security issues related to them. Maureen Ohlhausen, Acting Chair of the FTC, noted in her opening remarks that fully automated vehicles present many benefits, but that by 2020 these cars will collect 30 terabytes of data daily with the possibility of this data being breached by hackers. She emphasized that it is the FTC’s role to protect consumer privacy while not stifling innovation and growth.
On the same issue of connected cars, the House Energy & Commerce Committee’s Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection Subcommittee held a hearing at the end of June. This hearing included a panel of expert witnesses, including former NHTSA Administrator David Strickland, and examined 14 different bills on self-driving cars. The high profile panel and the sheer number of bills being considered clearly demonstrate the growing importance of the security of data collected by these vehicles.
The government is increasingly interested in regulating and legislating in the privacy arena. It is important for the advertising community, especially ANA members, to keep this in mind as the industry moves to reach out to consumers via connected devices. IoT is leading to rapid improvements in multiple industries and will help grow the economy, but it is important that this growth does not come at the expense of legitimate consumer privacy concerns. We agree with Acting Chair Ohlhausen that IoT should be enabled to develop broadly before overly restrictive privacy rules are put into place by the federal government. However, this will require the ad community, as we did through the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA) self-regulatory program in regard to privacy on the Internet and on mobile, to define how best to provide privacy transparency to consumers in the IoT environment.