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Internet privacy focus of event at Carnegie Mellon, to include FTC commissioner Brill

| Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015, 1:08 p.m.
The Trib reached out to people on Twitter to ask how they felt about companies gathering data.
The Trib reached out to people on Twitter to ask how they felt about companies gathering data.
The Trib reached out to people on Twitter to ask how they felt about companies gathering data.
The Trib reached out to people on Twitter to ask how they felt about companies gathering data.

Popular devices that gather and transmit information about exercise, eating and sleep patterns increasingly threaten privacy and security, the Federal Trade Commission said Tuesday in a report.

The Internet of Things report arrives in time for International Data Privacy Day , which Carnegie Mellon University will observe Wednesday with a host of privacy-related events. Julie Brill, the FTC's commissioner, will be the keynote speaker, Carnegie Mellon officials said.

“Privacy means a lot of things to different people. Fitbits, Nest thermostats — you don't think of them as a computer, but actually they have little computers in them and are connected to the Internet and are collecting data,” said Lorrie Cranor, a professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon who organized the event.

People have a vague idea that companies gather and sometimes sell their personal data, and that they use it to create ads and coupons specific to the user, Cranor said. But not everyone realizes when it's happening or why.

The FTC's report calls for self-regulation by companies that gather data. The report recommends equipping more devices with security measures, updating security with patches as needed, and limiting the amount of information they gather.

The report suggests giving consumers more choice in the amount of information they release while using devices, while acknowledging that this might be hard to do.

Megha Satyanarayana is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7991 or megha@tribweb.com.

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