A new Senate bill would require tech companies to label internet-connected devices equipped with either a camera or microphone.
Introduced by Cory Gardner, a Republican senator from Colorado, the Protecting Privacy in our Homes Act is intended to enhance consumer privacy as more and more tech devices come equipped with surveillance tools that aren’t always obvious.
The Federal Trade Commission would be responsible for creating the specific language for the label and for determining and enforcing penalties for non-compliance.
Amazon’s Alexa (pictured above) comes with a microphone that records users even when they’re not using the device.
In recent years, privacy concerns have grown as tech firms have become more brazen about recording users.
Earlier this year, Amazon confirmed its home assistant device Alexa records customers’ conversations when they’re not using the device.
A small number of those conversations are analysed by Amazon workers.
Google has also received criticism for not telling customers that Nest, its brand of home security cameras, comes with a microphone.
Google claimed it was a mistake, not an intentional omission, and explained the microphone was necessary to detect broken glass.
Police have been eager to take advantage of the growing network of surveillance gadgets by handing out Amazon’s camera-powered doorbells for free in select neighborhoods.
Amazon has entered over 500 partnerships with police departments creating an unprecedented relationship between the company and law enforcement that has caught criticism from civil rights advocates.
‘Amazon is building the tools for authoritarian surveillance that advocates, activists, community leaders, politicians, and experts have repeatedly warned against,’ the ACLU said in a statement about the police partnerships.
‘It is doing so without regard for how the technology will be exploited by law enforcement, ICE, and other government agencies prone to violence and racial discrimination.’
WHAT IS RING AND WHY DID AMAZON BUY IT?
Amazon acquired home security startup Ring for a reported £700 million ($1 billion).
The home security startup sells doorbells that capture video and audio.
Clips can be streamed on smartphones and other devices, while the doorbell even allows homeowners to remotely chat to those standing at their door.
Ring sells doorbells (left) that capture video and audio. Clips can be streamed on smartphones and other devices, while the doorbell even allows homeowners to remotely chat to those standing at their door
Ring promotes its gadgets as a way to catch package thieves, a nuisance that Amazon has been looking to remedy.
Amazon late last year unveiled its own smart lock and camera combination called Amazon Key in a move into home security.
Key is designed to provide a secure and trackable way for packages to be delivered inside homes when people aren’t there.
Amazon has bought home security startup Ring for a reported £700 million ($1 billion)
Ring’s doorbell could work well with Amazon Key, which lets delivery personnel put packages inside a home to avoid theft or, in the case of fresh food, spoiling.
California-based Ring first caught the spotlight with a failed quest for funding about five years ago on reality television show Shark Tank.
Ring went on to win backing from the likes of billionaire Richard Branson and Amazon’s Alexa Fund.