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CES 2015: The Internet of Things could signal the end of privacy says FTC chair

The chair of the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has issued a warning about the harmful effect smart gadgets and the Internet of Things (IoT) could have on consumer privacy.

During her talk at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Edith Ramirez cautioned that the amount of data collected from smart gadgets could easily be used by employers, companies or the government without the user’s permission.

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The Internet of Things is expected to grow hugely in terms of its scope, leading to a network of connected devices all around us, but Ms Ramirez believes that the information gathered by these sensors could be used to create a “deeply personal and startlingly complete picture” of a person’s life.

During her speech at CES, Ms Ramirez also placed the onus on technology firms to only collect the minimum amount of data required in order to function. However, with personal data proving a valuable commodity, particularly amongst advertisers, it is feared that consumer data will be collected without reservation. An individual’s credit history, health background, family information and many other indicators could all be monitored relatively easily.

Some have argued that the IoT and other smart devices have the potential to greatly improve our lives through health and economic benefits, but Ms Ramirez feels that this should never be at the cost of individual privacy.

"Will this information be used to paint a picture of you that you won't see but that others will?" she asked. "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."

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During the talk, Ms Ramirez also issued a warning to businesses, adding that consumers will quickly lose trust in organisations that do not take privacy seriously.