FTC Announces PrivacyCon

It is said nothing gets the public’s attention like a scandal. In the wake of Ashley Madison, the Federal Trade Commission is announcing a new forum they have dubbed PrivacyCon to be held in Washington, D.C. Of course, the recent scandal is just one of the topics to be brought up at this convention on Jan 14, 2016. Recent technology advances have seemingly outpaced the rules that govern them, turning the electronic frontier in to the wild west.

Federal Trade Commission

The FTC is the commission charged with protecting consumer privacy rights in the US. With PrivacyCon, they intend to address some privacy issues that have come to light recently. Their stated goal is to establish a new forum for researchers, privacy advocates, academics, industry representatives, regulators, and others to address the concerns for current and future technology. By doing this, they want to highlight ways citizens may protect themselves and expand collaborations between industry members and policymakers.

Though the official itinerary has not been set yet, here are the topics the FTC is hoping to cover.

  • Connected health and fitness devices or applications
  • Devices or services that incorporate voice-activation technology
  • Smart Homes
  • De-identification
  • Connected vehicles
  • Drones
  • Edu-tech
  • Big data and algorithms
  • Consumers’ attitudes toward, and valuation of, privacy
  • Costs and benefits of privacy-protective technology or behavior
  • Economics of privacy and security
  • Security by design techniques
  • Facial recognition software

As you can see, there are quite a few topics here, many of which have been brought to light recently in the media. Everywhere you turn, you hear of cars being test hacked, facial recognition software being overused, or someone shooting down a drone they thought was over their land. Even in the world of smart appliances and houses, there is potential vulnerability. As more and more things get connected to the internet and smart devices become more prevalent, there is always the potential for those devices to get hijacked.

For many years, members of the tech community have been asking for this sort of forum. Until recently though, these requests have gone largely ignored. PrivacyCon will hopefully bring to the forefront suggestions and ideas for solving problems that have been gone unattended for some time. The FTC sees this as the beginning of the conversation in the privacy field, so this meeting of the minds is likely to continue in the future. If this meeting does encourage policymakers to pass laws going forward, our privacy could be better safeguarded, at least from private and commercial entities.