As privacy concerns grow regarding the information tech giants collect on users, California lawmakers have introduced a bill that would limit how recordings are collected by manufacturers of smart speakers and digital assistants.
Republican Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham introduced the Anti-Eavesdropping Act which prohibits saving, storing or sharing audio recordings without explicit consent from the user.
The bill has now passed the State Assembly and if signed into law, it would prevent smart speaker manufacturers from retaining or distributing voice recordings or transcriptions without first obtaining user consent.
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Cunningham explained that consumers should be able to have smart devices in their homes while keeping their conversations private at the same time, saying:
“Today, the State Assembly sent a strong message to the tech giants who have spent years recording and retaining private conversations in the home via smart devices. Tech giants have provided consumers with a false choice: live in a smart and interconnected home, or keep your conversations private. We can have both. Private conversations in the home should remain private, and no company should have the ability to record these conversations without consent.”
Smart speaker fallout
California's Anti-Eavesdropping Act comes at a time when both consumers and lawmakers are growing increasingly concerned about the privacy implications of smart home devices.
For instance, Bloomberg recently revealed that thousands of Amazon employees around the world have been listening in on user's conversations with their Amazon Echo devices.
Apparently these voice recordings were captured to help improve how Alexa understands speech and responds to commands and questions. However, since the users weren't notified this was happening, Amazon was in breach of their privacy and would be held accountable under California's new bill if it becomes law.
US lawmakers have taken issue with the country's tech giants and in addition to California's efforts to regulate them, Illinois also attempted to pass a similar law which Google and Amazon lobbied heavily against.
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