Data Readiness: As IoT Bears its Fruits, Should New Legislation Prevent its Spoil?


Debates about technology and privacy infringement – especially concerning how our data is collected and used – are still ongoing.

The internet as we know it is essentially an infinite highway. Vehicles (or data, per this metaphor) travel constantly between various destinations (or website, apps, etcetera). Highway billboards (i.e. online ads) are placed deliberately to try and sell drivers on a product or service. Then, highway surveillance cameras (i.e. data-tracking tools) detect cars’ movements; where they’re going, and where they’ve been.

The long-story-short of this metaphor? Companies collect data about users’ online behaviors for advertising, market or academic research, improved development of products or performance measurements, and so on.

However, current U.S. data collection and protection requirements are fragmented; we have yet to clearly define them across state and federal jurisdictions. Industries’ biggest names may talk big game in terms of “clarity and parity” on behalf of consumers, but such systems of inconsistent patchwork do lead to privacy violations and breaches in data safety.

So, yeah. Very much still ongoing.

But what about IoT? Well, if discourse about app and site traffic data is on the table, shouldn’t data pulled from IoT devices be, as well?

According to policymakers like U.S. Congresswoman Suzan DelBene, this is, indeed, a must.

“IoT and smart devices are growing in popularity in our homes and businesses to improve safety, efficiency, and convenience,” DelBene said. “But that would grind to a halt if we don’t properly address rising issues, particularly if we don’t have enough 5G spectrum available. We can’t afford to wait around.”

Next-gen 5G wireless technologies innovate consumer and business interconnectivity, and people like DelBene are stressing the importance of responsible data collection. It was DelBene herself who, this past February, reintroduced the IoT Readiness Act of 2023 in the House of Representatives. If enacted, the bill would require the FCC to collect and maintain data on IoT’s usages and growth of 5G-enabled IoT devices in order to provide consistently transparent reports.

In general, spearheading data-related challenges is a wild west, to say the least. Factor in the reach of IoT and complications do, admittedly, multiply. Nevertheless, the tide of accelerated device rollouts hitting the markets keeps flowing (leaving many networks overwhelmed), so individuals like DelBene believe additional data guardrails are more than necessary. (i.e. pertaining to spectrum needs, preventing data misuse and abuse, etc.)

And in IoT (be it with fitness-tracking wearables, smart home capabilities, self-driving automobiles, smart city infrastructure and so much more), consumers and governing bodies alike are vocalizing the needs for answerable actions regarding data collection and privacy imperatives. As The New York Times’ Wirecutter pointed out, “the U.S. still doesn’t have a singular law that covers the privacy of all types of data, Instead, it has a mix of laws that go by endless acronyms like HIPAA, FCRA, FERPA, GLBA, ECPA, VPPA, and COPPA.”

Many believe this must change. Because when slews of location data, automation data, and communications data (to name only a few) are being passed around between droves of third parties, that metaphorical highway of data and its users remains at risk.

Edited by Greg Tavarez
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