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FTC opens new office to protect you from the Internet of Things

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The FTC says it'll be broadening its scope with the launch of a new Office of Technology Research and Investigation, described by the agency as "the next generation in consumer protection." The new division succeeds and replaces the FTC's current Mobile Technology Unit, which focused on safeguarding children from deceptive mobile apps and overseeing other smartphone-centric topics.

But technology never sits still. In 2015, we're faced with the growing Internet of Things, cars that get faster with software updates, and the expanding smart home. The FTC thinks now's the time to widen its net so that it may protect consumer interest across every facet of technology. Specifically, the OTRI will keep an eye on "privacy, data security, connected cars, smart homes, algorithmic transparency, emerging payment methods, big data, and the Internet of Things," according to the agency.

"We believe OTRI will be an instrumental source for research and information on technology’s impact on consumers," wrote chief technologist Ashkan Soltani in a blog post. Along with announcing the new office, the FTC says it'll be recruiting new technologists and opening up other positions as well. Among those is a Technology Policy Research Fellowship, which is aimed at recent graduates "with that rare education in both technology and policy." In this role, among other duties, fellows will "provide technical expertise to FTC attorneys and investigators" — probably to make sure they never publicly say anything foolish. As part of the changes, the FTC says it will be inviting more staff to publish posts on its Tech@FTC blog "about technical research findings and technology related issues affecting consumers."