Back in October, a piece of malware called Mirai was used to essentially crash the entire internet. It was traced back to the increasingly worrying Internet of Things, the giant pile of stuff we all own that increasingly connects to the internet, apparently for the sole purpose of collecting data on us, including how often we use sex toys. If you think that this might be something the Federal Trade Commission would be worried about, more or less the answer is “Nah, bro.”
The Guardian reported on remarks made by acting FTC head Maureen Ohlhausen who essentially said the FTC won’t do anything until the fire’s already started, and appears mostly to hope that it will just go ahead and nicely put itself out:
“We’re saying not ‘Let’s speculate about harm five years out,’ but ‘Is there something happening that harms consumers right now or is likely to cause harm to consumers,’” Ohlhausen told the audience at the conference. If there is potential harm to consumers in a new technology, the FTC should not act until that harm manifests, she said: “We don’t know if that risk will materialize. It may well materialize, but a solution may materialize at the same time.”
Ohlhausen, to be fair, does have a point when she says the FTC isn’t a regulator. It’s primarily an enforcement authority, so there is, to some degree, only so much that can be done on their end to anticipate things going south, no matter how clearly south they’re about to head. On the other hand, one can safely assume that a major outage on the internet would fall under the agency’s investigative purview of something that harms consumers right now, and that it would reasonably be concerned that this might happen again. And really, we shouldn’t be counting on tech companies to clean their own houses, considering this is the same industry that accidentally put out a tablet accessory that could kill Grandpa.