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Security, Privacy and Information Governance

Tag: Internet of Things (page 1 of 2)

Is There a “Tech” Bureau in the FTC’s Future?

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The Federal Trade Commission has focused some of its recent public statements on technology issues and related enforcement challenges. In this blog post, I provide a recap of those statements, including one before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection.

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FTC Staff Provides Recommendations to Consumer Product Safety Commission on IoT Safety

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In March 2018, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued a Notice of Public Hearing and Request for Written comments on The Internet of Things on Consumer Product Hazards.  The CPSC expressed interest regarding existing safety standards on existing IoT devices, how to prevent hazards, and the role of government in the effort to promote IoT safety.

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New Initiative Examines Ethics of Research Using ‘Pervasive’ Data

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Data – big or small – has tremendous potential for use (and misuse).  For example, using mobile apps to keep track of one’s own physical activity or caloric intake may empower individuals to improve their health.  Should other parties (e.g., that app’s developer, physician, employer, insurance company, online friends) be able to access the same information, and if so, under what conditions? As another example, expressing one’s own feelings and preferences on a social media platform may strengthen bonds within a professional community or a family group, expedite academic collaborations, and/or improve an individual’s sense of belonging.  However, may those same messages – freely expressed in a public domain – be re-purposed for a study of mental health trends or for marketing strategies; and if so – when/how/by whom, or why/why-not?  Questions like these touch on a host of ethical and legal issues that only recently began to be explored in depth, even as new norms of individual behavior, human interactions, and treatment of data are evolving.     

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NIST Releases Draft Report on IoT Cybersecurity Standards; Comments Due April 18

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On February 14, 2018, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) released a draft of its NIST Interagency Report 8200 (NISTIR 8200), which is intended to inform policymakers and standards participants in developing and implementing cybersecurity standards in and for IoT devices and systems.  At a high level, the draft report is intended to:

  • provide a functional description for IoT (Section 4);
  • describe several IoT applications that are representative examples of IoT (Section 5);
  • summarize the cybersecurity core areas and provides examples of relevant standards (Section 6);
  • describe IoT cybersecurity objectives, risks, and threats (Section 7);
  • provide an analysis of the standards landscape for IoT cybersecurity (Sections 8 and 9); and
  • map IoT relevant cybersecurity standards to cybersecurity core areas (Appendix D).

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FDA Approves Software Application That Alerts Providers of Potential Stroke in Patients

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On February 13, 2018 FDA approved a software application with clinical-decision support capability, in this case alerting providers of a potential stroke in patients. The system, “Viz.AI Contact,” is developed by a US/Israeli company named Viz.ai, which uses artificial intelligence and machine deep learning for analyzing medical images.  Earlier in January, this system also received a CE Mark from the European authorities.

Stroke is caused by an interrupted blood supply to the brain; for example, due to a blood vessel’s rupture.  Stroke is among leading causes of mortality and long-term disability in the U.S. and other countries.  The Viz.AI Contact system analyzes brain computed tomography (CT) scans, identifies a suspected large vessel blockage, and sends a text notification to the health care specialist.

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Strava’s Heatmap & IoT Devices

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Online fitness tracking app Strava recently published a “heatmap” of data showing the physical movement paths of Strava users around the globe.  The Strava app uses mobile phones’ GPS in conjunction with wearable fitness trackers, such as Fitbit, Garmin, and Xiaomi Mi, to track users’ physical activities, capture performance metrics like speed, pace, and distance, analyze users’ performance, and compare performance metrics with other users.  As useful as this information is to Strava users, it became widely known in late January 2018 that Strava’s heatmap, easily available to the public, shows the movement of soldiers and military personnel in different global locations.  This information can be used to identify, with explicit detail, the location and layout of foreign physical military installations in countries such as Syria and Afghanistan.

Strava’s heatmap, which was updated in November 2017, is a visualization of the company’s global network of athletes.  According to Strava, the heatmap is the “largest, richest, and most beautiful dataset of its kind,” and consists of the following data points:

  • 1 billion activities
  • 3 trillion latitude/longitude points
  • 13 trillion pixels rasterized
  • 10 terabytes of raw input data
  • A total distance of 27 billion km (17 billion miles)
  • A total recorded activity duration of 200 thousand years
  • 5% of all land on Earth covered by tiles

Strava notes that the platform has numerous privacy rules in place, including an enhanced privacy mode, the exclusion of some or all private activities, the cropping of activities to respect user defined privacy zones, and the option to opt-out of contributing data to the heatmap.

Strava’s heatmap highlights a variety of issues associated with the deployment of  Internet of Things (IoT) devices.  The IoT, a broad category of technology that is generally understood to include physical devices that can collect and share data and connect to the Internet, is quickly changing every aspect of our lives, from the way we work and how we purchase goods and services to how we exercise and how well we sleep.  How these devices connect with other devices as well as consumer expectations continue to evolve is this largely unregulated space.

The FTC’s 2012 report, “Protecting Consumer Privacy in an Era of Rapid Change,” provides further insight.

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