Today, Representative John Curtis (R-UT), member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, reintroduced bipartisan legislation to put American consumers in the driver’s seat by giving them clearer knowledge about the technology they are purchasing. The Informing Consumers about Smart Devices Act, also cosponsored by Representative Seth Moulton (D-MA), requires the creation of reasonable disclosure guidelines for products that have audio or visual recording components that are not clearly obvious to a reasonable person, such as a kitchen or another household appliance.
“This legislation balances protecting American consumers with continuing to foster innovation, and I am extremely pleased with this bipartisan product we reintroduced today,” said Curtis. “By working with a broad range of stakeholders, this legislation will allow regulatory flexibility without hamstringing the technological pioneers who are developing smart technologies, while ensuring consumers are aware of the capabilities of items they are putting in their homes.”
“We should be allowed to make informed decisions about the electronic eavesdroppers we invite into our homes. But we can’t do it if big tech hides microphones and cameras that are always listening in refrigerators, toasters, and other household gadgets,” said Moulton. “Let’s pass this bill so consumers know when big tech is listening in.”
The legislation is in response to reports about household devices listening to individuals’ conversations without their knowledge. While some manufacturers have taken steps to more clearly label their products with listening devices, this legislation would make this information more obvious to consumers without overly burdensome requirements on producers of these devices.
Specifically, the bill requires the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to work alongside industry leaders to establish guidelines for properly disclosing the potential for their products to contain audio or visual recording capabilities. To ensure this does not become an overly burdensome labeling requirement, the legislation provides manufacturers the option of requesting customized guidance from the FTC that fits within their existing marketing or branding practices in addition to permitting these disclosures pre or post-sale of their products.