CES 2015: FTC chair warns of concerns raised by connected devices

Smart gadgets will gather detailed data about all aspects of our lives, said Edith Ramirez

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CES 2015: FTC chair warns of concerns raised by connected devices Ramirez: "Will this information be used to paint a picture of you that you won't see but that others will?"
By  Helen Gaskell Published  January 7, 2015

The chair of the US Federal Trade Commission has warned that a "deeply personal" picture of every consumer could be grabbed by futuristic smart gadgets.

Speaking at CES, Edith Ramirez said that while the Internet of Things provides an enormous amount of benefits, we need to be aware of the risks to privacy as well.

"In the not too distant future, many, if not most, aspects of our everyday lives will leave a digital trail.  That data trove will contain a wealth of revealing information that, when patched together, will present a deeply personal and startlingly complete picture of each of us - one that includes details about our financial circumstances, our health, our religious preferences, and our family and friends."

Ramirez urged tech firms to make sure gadgets gathered the minimum data needed to fulfil their function.

The granularity of the data that could be gathered by existing devices was without precedent, she said, and likely to get more detailed as time went on.

"Your smart TV and tablet may track whether you watch the history channel or reality television, but will your TV-viewing habits be shared with prospective employers or universities?"

"Will this information be used to paint a picture of you that you won't see but that others will?" she asked, wondering if it would influence the types of services people were offered, ads they were shown or what assumptions firms made about their lifestyle.

Data should only be gathered for a specific purpose, said Ramirez, adding that any firm that did not respect privacy would lose the trust of potential customers.

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