California lawmakers introduced a bill that would limit how manufacturers of smart speakers and digital assistants collect recordings.
The Anti-Eavesdropping Act, which cleared its first committee this week, prohibits saving, storing, or sharing of audio recordings without explicit consent from the user.
“Recent revelations about how certain companies have staff that listen in to private conversations via connected smart speakers further shows why this bill is necessary to protect privacy in the home,” Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham (R-San Luis Obispo), the bill’s author, said in a statement published by The Mercury News.
Bloomberg last month shocked no one with the news that thousands of Amazon employees around the world listen in on Echo owners’ conversations (allegedly to improve the technology).
More troubling is the fact that workers can also access location information of Alexa users and look up their home or office address.
The California bill—introduced in February by Cunningham—defines “smart speaker devices” as a wireless speaker and voice command device with an integrated virtual assistant “that offers interactive actions and hands-free activation.”
Should the legislation pass, it would severely handicap services like Amazon’s Alexa, Siri from Apple, and Google Assistant (among a handful of others).
The latter told Mercury News that it is “monitoring” the bill.
“We believe that the combination of strong and balanced regulations, with products that are designed with privacy in mind, will help provide individuals with confidence that they’re in control of their personal information,” a Google spokeswoman said. Read more