House members introduce bill to stop TV devices from monitoring consumers at home

In a statement, the two lawmakers said they want to get out ahead of the release of this new technology and pass legislation that ensures it would include beefed up privacy protections for consumers. They added that this legislation is particularly relevant given the recent revelations about the National Security Agency’s Internet surveillance programs. 

{mosads}Capuano called the technology “an incredible invasion of privacy” in a statement.

“Given what we have recently learned about the access that the government has to the phone numbers we call, the emails we send and the websites we visit, it is important for consumers to decide for themselves whether they want this technology,” he said. “Think about what you do in the privacy of your own home and then think about how you would feel sharing that information with your cable company, their advertisers and your government.”

Their legislation would require companies to get consumers’ consent before installing a DVR or cable box with this monitoring technology in their homes. Companies would also have to provide explicit information to consumers about what kind of data the technology will be able to collect about them, who will be able to access the data and how it will be used.

Additionally, the bill requires a cable box or set-top device to notify consumers when the monitoring technology is activated and in use by posting the phrase “We are watching you” across their TV screens.

Despite its filing of the patent application, Verizon said it hasn’t had any plans to offer a product or service with technology that tracks people’s activities in their home.

“Verizon has a strong track record of protecting its users privacy. As Verizon noted almost a year ago, the patent application in question received an initial rejection,” said Verizon spokesman Ed McFadden. “Verizon has had no plans for such a product or service.”

Intel echoed a similar statement and said its products give consumers control over what information they share.

“We take the privacy of our users very seriously,” an Intel spokesperson. “Our philosophy is to leave the control in the hands of the user including what information they choose to share.”

This past week Microsoft’s announcement about its forthcoming Xbox One gaming console raised similar privacy concerns because it ships with the Kinect motion sensor device, which has facial and body recognition features that works in the dark and records audio, Rolling Stone reported. The Kinect device is always on even when the Xbox One is turned off, the report added.

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