Bill to prevent spying by smart fridges advances to Senate floor

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FILE- In this Jan. 8, 2018, file photo, an attendee takes pictures of the new Samsung Family Hub smart refrigerator during a news conference at CES International in Las Vegas. Payment networks and manufacturers are building payment functions into more devices — expanding your options as well as freeing up your hands. Samsung’s Family Hub refrigerator, lets users order groceries from the Groceries by Mastercard app. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File) Jae C. Hong/AP

Bill to prevent spying by smart fridges advances to Senate floor

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Legislation to ban spying by refrigerators is just a vote by the full Senate away from becoming law.

The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee on Wednesday approved the Informing Consumers about Smart Devices Act, which would give the Federal Trade Commission the power to force the designers of internet-connected devices to disclose whether recording hardware is installed into smart devices. The bill would affect smart appliances such as televisions and refrigerators but not mobile phones, laptops, or other devices for which the owner reasonably expects to see recording devices. The next step for the bill is a vote by the Senate, which would send it to the White House to become law. The House passed the bill late last month.

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“As the number of smart devices found in homes steadily climbs, consumers deserve greater transparency about how these devices work and how they impact privacy,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said in a statement. “Americans should know if the fridge is recording their families’ words and movements, and they should know whether their virtual assistant is transmitting audio recordings of private family conversations.”

“Most consumers expect their refrigerators to keep the milk cold, not come equipped with a camera or microphone to record their personal and private family discussions,” Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) added.

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Security experts have warned that smart devices may spy on users without consent. There have been multiple incidents in which a user was being spied on by smart televisions and toys without the owner being aware.

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