DENVER (CBS4) – You probably expect when you buy a cellphone or TV that it has a microphone, but what about a light bulb, a bed or a toilet? The number of home devices with microphones and cameras is exploding. While no one wants to think their thermostat is spying on them, companies aren’t required to tell you if there is a recording device, let alone what happens to the information collected.
Sen. Cory Gardner has introduced legislation to change that.
“This empowers consumers to have power over their information, to at least know to ask the question, ‘Where is this information going? How is it being used? and what should I expect?'” he said.
The bill authored by Colorado’s junior senator, a Republican, would require companies to disclose if a product has a recording device and is connected to the internet.
“People want to buy an Alexa because it has a microphone, but maybe they don’t want to buy a toilet listening to everything you’re doing,” Gardner said.
There are now more than 4,000 smart devices that track what you say and do.
“I don’t think companies that are selling us these devices are trying do something nefarious. The risk is if someone else gets that information … could (it be) someone that wanted to compromise your security in some way,” said Steve Watson, CEO of VTO Labs in Broomfield.
VTO Labs pulls data from electronic devices for law enforcement.
“Thermostats … we have found audio recordings on,” he said. “Cameras that are supposed to only pass the information through to internet, we have found saved video on those.”
From a smart refrigerator to a smart fork to a smart toy, Watson says the devices can build profiles of us and even our kids.
“This profile that’s being made of every one of us that we don’t know where that information will end up in the future. Data that’s created today, we must assume never goes away,” Watson said.
Under the legislation, the Federal Trade Commission would determine the specifics of how companies would need to make the disclosure to consumers. Gardner says both Democrats and Republicans have expressed support for the bill.