Scalise sponsors bill to require more transparency from smart device manufacturers

U.S. House Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) this week introduced legislation to give Americans more control over smart devices in their homes by requiring greater transparency from manufacturers about what information their devices collect.

“Consumers have a right to know whether their conversations are being recorded in the privacy of their homes. They shouldn’t have to fear that their smart devices are recording and collecting sensitive personal information without their consent,” Rep. Scalise said. “Big Tech must be more transparent with the American public about the capabilities of their devices.” 

Rep. Scalise sponsored the Earning Approval of Voiced External Sound Databasing Retained on People (EAVESDROP) Act, H.R. 8543, which would require notice regarding the collection of ambient noise by certain internet-connected devices, limit the disclosure and retention of information collected through such noise, and require a mechanism by which such collection may be deactivated and reactivated, according to the congressional record bill summary.

“I’m proud today to introduce the EAVESDROP Act to give consumers more control over their privacy, especially as more electronic devices are listening to their conversations,” said Rep. Scalise on Wednesday.

Specifically, H.R. 8543 would mandate that manufacturers of smart devices disclose if any information is gathered on an individual through the recording of ambient noise and, if so, what types of information have been collected, how long that information is retained, if that information is sold to third parties, and whether the recording of ambient noise can be deactivated, according to a bill summary provided by Rep. Scalise’s staff.

Additionally, the bill would limit the amount of information gathered to purposes that are only necessary for the function of the device, and provide consumers with tools to understand the capabilities of smart devices, the summary says.

Heritage Action for America, Americans for Tax Reform, and the R Street Institute endorsed the measure, which has been referred for consideration to the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee. 

“We particularly appreciate that it strikes a delicate balance between empowering consumers and avoiding innovation-stifling regulations,” Chris Riley, Resident Senior Fellow at R Street Institute, said of the bill.