Mr Cruz took to the Senate floor on Tuesday to rally support for the Informing Consumers about the Smart Devices Act — warning that as more and more Americans bring smart devices into their homes, the result could be a loss of privacy.
“In Texas, we’ve become very aware of that cost,” Mr Cruz said. “The past few years, smart thermostats have allowed electric companies to control the temperature in your own home from afar in the name of conserving energy. Furthermore, a lot of Americans don’t realize or expect that the growing number of smart household devices and appliances, have cameras on them, and microphones that can surreptitiously record families and transmit data.”
Mr Cruz says his bill would require technology manufacturers to clearly disclose whether their appliances have listening devices, cameras, or any other spying technologies. The bill would not apply to cell phones, laptops, or other devices “that a consumer would reasonably expect to include a camera or microphone.”
Mr Cruz first introduced the proposal back in January with Sen Maria Cantwell of Washington, a Democrat. Sen Raphael Warnock of Georgia also joined the bill as a co-sponsor in late March, shortly after it was marked up by the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation committee. According to Mr Cruz’s testimony, the bill passed the Commerce Committee by a voice vote but has not yet been taken up by the full Senate.
At its core, Mr Cruz said, the bill is designed as a consumer protection measure to let Americans know what they’re bringing into their home — a right that he feels takes precedent over concerns about government overreach.
“Now, I’m sympathetic to the argument that there are too many mandates from government and that many of the mandates are unnecessary, burdensome, and costly,” Mr Cruz said. “But requiring a manufacturer to tell you if they’re spying on you does not fall into that category. And I have to say in assessing the minimal burden, the disclosure burden, against the harm, I fall down on the side of individual liberty. I fall down on the side of privacy.”
Privacy is, in many ways, one of the defining issues of the internet age — particularly at a time when the buying and selling of people’s personal data is a multi-billion dollar industry that is expected to grow exponentially in the coming years.
“I don’t think the American people want their air fryer spying on them,” Mr Cruz said. “And at a minimum, they have a right to know if their air fryer is spying on them.”
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