Concerns over data collection by smart gadgets

The information gathered by futuristic smart gadgets could reveal a “deeply personal” picture of every consumer, the chair of the US Federal Trade Commission has warned.

Speaking at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Edith Ramirez said that the Internet of Things (IoT) and smart gadgets posed a threat to privacy and urged the tech industry to collect as little data as possible with new products.

"I question the notion that we must put sensitive consumer data at risk on the off-chance a company might someday discover a valuable use for the information," she said, adding that firms should store only data needed for a specific purpose.

The IoT is based on sophisticated sensors that can track people’s movements and their interconnected gadgets such as health trackers, 'smart' cars or home devices, and could gather an ample trove of personal information that is “a deeply personal and startlingly complete picture of each of us”, according to Ramirez.

This could lead to portraying a distorted image of a person if given to prospective employers or universities, she added. It could include anything from credit history, health or religious preferences.

Although the FTC head embraced the boom in connected devices and acknowledged its potential to stimulate economic growth, she said this shouldn’t come at the expense of individual privacy.

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