For some Americans, their refrigerator recording them sneaking into the kitchen for – yet another – midnight snack, or their air fryer catching hushed voices in an intimate conversation might be a dealbreaker for a relationship with a smart device.
Luckily, the U.S. Senate is on the citizens’ side in cases of appliance privacy.
A bipartisan bill introduced by Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., aims to reduce privacy breaches by requiring companies to disclose whether their products feature a camera or recording capability in certain internet-connected devices.
“It’s estimated that by 2026, over 84 million households will have smart devices – providing connection and control over everything from your air conditioning to your air fryer,” said Sen. Cantwell, who chairs the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.
“Yet, most consumers expect their refrigerators to keep the milk cold, not record their most personal and private family discussions,” she said.
The Informing Consumers About Smart Devices Act would require the Federal Trade Commission to create disclosure guidelines for products that have audio or visual recording components that are not obvious – such as refrigerators, washers, dryers, and dishwashers.
The legislation does not include devices that someone would reasonably expect to have a microphone or camera – like a mobile phone or laptop computer.
“American consumers should be aware when their appliances and everyday tech products have the capability to record them through microphones and cameras – let alone the ability to transmit through Wi-Fi,” Cruz said. “I’m proud to help author this bipartisan solution to help safeguard the privacy and security of American homes.”
There’s no telling whether this bill has legs, but you know who to thank down the road for peace of mind that your toaster isn’t recording you yelling at the cat.