California to regulate information gathered by smart TVs

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You can file this under the category of things you didn’t think you needed to worry about: On New Year's Day, California will become the first state to regulate information gathered by smart televisions.

Assembly Bill 1116 promises to protect consumers from television voice-recognition features that might secretly record private conversations to gain a marketing advantage.

Makers of of smart TVs – which are TVs connected to the Internet – will have to let users know their voices may be recorded and transmitted, and manufacturers are banned from using those recordings to target certain ads to certain viewers. So when you’re changing the channel using your voice, what you say can't be used for marketing purposes.

“A family’s home is their castle," said assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Glendale), who authored the bill, in a statement. "Yet new technologies have breached the walls, and now even a family’s most private moments are at risk from the Big Data hordes."

According to Gatto, consumers often don't know their instructions to a smart TV can be recorded and sent to a third party.

“AB-1116 will give the consumer the ability to personally determine the level of privacy protections inside their home,” Gatto said.  “We’re not trying to stymie technological advances or fetter profit margins.  The television industry has survived for nearly 100 years without knowing what I said to my wife during an episode of The Bachelor.”

AB-1116 was passed unanimously by the House and Senate.