House Wants Consumers Informed About Devices


A diagram depicting how devices are increasingly interconnected in the IoT | Image by geralt/Pixabay

The House of Representatives voted this week to direct manufacturers to explicitly disclose to consumers when their devices contain internet-connected cameras and microphones.

The motion enjoyed broad bipartisan support, with 201 Democrats and 205 Republicans voting in favor of the measure. A dozen Republicans voted against the motion, while 15 representatives abstained.

The requirement will only cover devices where cameras and microphones would not necessarily be evident and apparent. The rule will not include “a telephone (including a mobile phone), a laptop, tablet, or any device that a consumer would reasonably expect to have a microphone or camera,” read the bill.

According to The Epoch Times, Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) — a supporter of the motion — called the bill “relatively straightforward.”

“Internet-connected devices are becoming increasingly present in our lives, and it’s important for people to understand what they’re buying,” he said.

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), who also supported the measure, noted the proliferation of the “Internet of Things” (IoT) devices when speaking with colleagues. While Pallone told his peers that “the average American home has 11 Internet of Things, or IoT, devices,” The Epoch Times reported, a survey from Deloitte places the number much higher at 22 per home as of last year.

“We must ensure that the IoT revolution does not come at the expense of consumers’ privacy,” stressed Pallone.

The new bill is expected to help protect Americans from scammers and state actors, too. Last year, researcher Christopher Balding co-authored a report showing that Beijing could covertly use these devices — many of which are manufactured in China — to record Americans, reported The Epoch Times.

“While we cannot say this [Chinese coffee machine company] is collecting data on non-Chinese users, all evidence indicates their machines can and do collect data on users outside of mainland China and store the data in China,” the report, authored by Balding and Joe Wu, concluded.

Last year, the European Union similarly acknowledged the growing security risks posed by internet-connected devices. As a result, the group enacted new cybersecurity rules in September 2022, according to The Epoch Times.

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