Requests Unanimous Consent to Pass Bipartisan Informing Consumers about Smart Devices Act, Receives Objection from Sen. Paul
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Commerce Committee Ranking Member Ted Cruz (R-Texas) today took to the Senate floor requesting unanimous consent to pass his Informing Consumers about Smart Devices Act, bipartisan legislation he introduced with Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) that discloses if an appliance has audio or visual recording components. Many consumers don’t realize the growing number of household devices and appliances like refrigerators, washers, dryers, and dishwashers that have cameras or microphones capable of recording them, or Wi-Fi capability for transmitting data without their knowledge.
Sen. Cruz’s request for unanimous consent received objection from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).
Sen. Cruz’s remarks as delivered are available below:
“Many Americans remember waking up on Saturday morning to watch their favorite cartoons, including shows like The Jetsons. As I look at the Senate pages that were here, I suspect none of you have any memory of the Jetsons. For those who are under 40, in the chamber or watching at home, the Jetsons was a futuristic cartoon set in the year 2062. And it depicted a family from the future who had fun, imaginative technologies like jetpacks, holograms, video calls, robot vacuums, smartwatches, and flying cars. While we’re still waiting to see those flying cars in the air, we already have a lot of the Jetsons technology available to us now, in many cases even better than what was depicted in cartoon on the show.
“Today, internet-connected smart devices are commonly used in American households, light bulbs, mirrors, air fryers, coffeemakers, trash cans, kitchen faucets, refrigerators, and more are all becoming quote unquote, smart. And we’re able to control them with our phones or voice commands. A lot of that is really cool. It’s expected that in a few years, nearly 70% of American households, more than 80 million households, will own at least one smart home product. And this is, by and large, a good thing. Smart devices can help us improve our quality of life and complete daily tasks more easily.
“But with any technological advancement, there can be trade-offs, and for smart devices. One of the potential trade-offs is our privacy. In Texas, we become very aware of that cost. 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.
“In other words, when you’re buying a new refrigerator, you don’t expect your fridge to record you, or listen to you, or spy on you without your knowledge. And while some manufacturers have responsibly taken steps to more clearly label their products and to let consumers know they contain listening devices or cameras, others have not. And so, I’ve introduced bipartisan legislation, which I authored alongside Senator Cantwell of Washington, a Democrat, the chairman of the Commerce Committee, I’m the ranking member of the Commerce Committee. Our bipartisan legislation would simply ensure that this information is clearly communicated to consumers so that you’re informed before you buy a product that’s going to photograph you, or film you, or record you so that doesn’t happen against your wishes and without your knowledge. Now, I expect in a minute, we’re going to hear opposition to my bill. Opposition focused on the proposition that any mandate put on a private company is somehow a burden. And it’s a mandate to require your refrigerator manufacturer to tell you if your fridge is spying on you.
“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. 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. I don’t think the American people want their air fryer spying on them. And at a minimum, they have a right to know if their air fryer is spying on them. Now, I would note my colleagues on both sides of the aisle agree. Presiding Officer today serves on the Commerce Committee. This legislation passed the Commerce Committee by voice vote with bipartisan support from both sides of the aisle. This should be a simple, easy, pro-privacy step to protect consumers.”