IoT Hackers: The FTC Wants You!

The FTC is creating a new Office of Technology Research and Investigation to step up efforts to protect consumers in an age of "rapid technological innovation."
The FTC is creating a new Office of Technology Research and Investigation to step up efforts to protect consumers in an age of “rapid technological innovation.”

In-brief: The Federal Trade Commission announced this week that it is creating a new Office of Technology Research and Investigation to expand the FTC’s research into areas such as privacy, data security, connected cars, smart homes, algorithmic transparency, emerging payment methods, big data, and the Internet of Things.

Do you like hacking consumer technology? Do you find it thrilling to expose security and privacy weaknesses in products that we use every day and rely on? In the past, this might have gotten you sued. Today, you might be a candidate for a job at The Federal Trade Commission (FTC).


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The government’s lead product safety and consumer protection watchdog announced this week that it is launching a new office designed to “expand the FTC’s capacity to protect consumers in an age of rapid technological innovation.” The FTC said it is looking for “technologists” to staff the new Office of Technology Research and Investigation (OTRI).

According to the FTC, the OTRI is a successor to the Mobile Technology Unit (or MTU), which was created to focus the Commission’s attentions on fast-expanding mobile technologies like smart phones. Today, the MTU conducts independent research related to mobile technologies. It has released reports including those on dangers lurking in mobile applications for children and mobile shopping applications.

[Check out more Security Ledger coverage of the FTC.]

OTRI will address a broader array of technology issues involving “all facets of the FTC’s consumer protection mission, including privacy, data security, connected cars, smart homes, algorithmic transparency, emerging payment methods, big data, and the Internet of Things,” according to a blog post by Ashkan Soltani, the Chief Technologist at the FTC.

Soltani noted that the FTC is creating a new position for a full-time Research Coordinator to oversee OTRI’s technology research projects and help create guidance stemming from its research. The FTC is also sponsoring a Technology Policy Research Fellowship, a 2 year term appointment available to “recent graduates with that rare education in both technology and policy.”

The FTC has taken a lead role among Federal agencies in highlighting some of the security and privacy issues stemming from rapid consumer adoption of connected products. In January, the FTC issued a report urging U.S. businesses to take steps to protect consumers’ privacy and security as the Internet of Things gains mainstream adoption. That month, Chairwoman Edith Ramirez used a high profile speech at the CES consumer electronics show to outline both the potential and concerns about ubiquitous data collection stemming from connected devices.

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