Sen. Warner Seeks FTC Input on Interconnected Toy Privacy

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) is pressing the Federal Trade Commission to protect the privacy of IoP (the "Internet of Playthings").

Warner, according to a copy of a letter to FTC chairwoman Edith Ramirez, says the FTC needs to work with Congress to boost protections of children's personal information given the rise of interconnected "smart toys" that can collect and store data on kids and their parents.

He pointed to research about hacking into talking dolls and changing their responses and evidence that conversations recorded by toys and uploaded to the cloud are easily hacked. He also cited the data breach at a Hong Kong-based toy company that exposed the personal info of 6.4 million children.

"The ever-declining cost of digital storage and Internet connectivity have made it possible to connect an unimaginable range of product and services," he told Ramirez. While that increases productivity, innovation and consumer benefit, the former tech exec said, it also increases data collection, straining the ability of parents to understand or keep up with what is being collected.

Warner, cochair of the Senate Cybersecurity Caucus, also asked for answers to a bunch of questions including whether Ramirez thought the FTC had sufficient regulatory authority to protect children under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) in the age of the Internet of Things and what methods parents have of controlling data collection from their kids.

An FTC staff report on IoT released earlier this year concludes that any specific Internet of Things (IoT) privacy or data security legislation would be "premature."

Warner cited that finding and asked if the FTC had any plans to revisit that decision.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.