Assemblyman Mike Gatto

SACRAMENTO, Calif. /California Newswire/ — Imagine a television that records and transmits conversations in the privacy of your bedroom. Then imagine words meant to be heard only by your spouse being reviewed by strangers, to discern your personal tastes. This scenario sounds like something straight out of 1984, but it’s real, and it might be in your home right now. Calif. Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Glendale), joined by members of the Assembly Committee on Privacy and Consumer Protection, authored AB 1116 to protect Californians from this type of unwanted surveillance, and today the same Committee voted 11-0 to approve the legislation.

The measure will require manufacturers to ensure their television’s voice-recognition feature cannot be enabled without the consumer’s knowledge or consent. AB 1116 also prohibits manufacturers from utilizing recordings for a use not intended by the consumer. In that way, it preserves the ability to control a television with voice commands, or to make a Skype call using a television, but prohibits manufacturers from using recorded speech to generate targeted advertisements

“A family’s home is their castle. Yet new technologies have breached the walls, and now even a family’s most private moments are at risk from the Big Data hordes,” said Gatto.

Much to the dismay of civil libertarians, reports have surfaced that televisions can record and transmit private conversations back to the manufacturer or a third-party without the knowledge of the user. While some manufacturers have inconspicuous warnings tucked away in their user manuals, consumers are largely unaware that what they say can be monitored, recorded, and transmitted to a third party, say, for targeted advertising. “It might be a little creepy if the family discussing financial issues finds themselves receiving targeted commercials from bankruptcy attorneys as they watch their favorite show,” said Gatto.

“AB 1116 will give the consumer the ability to personally determine the level of privacy protections inside their home,” Gatto said. “We’re not trying to stymie technological advances or fetter profit margins. The television industry has survived for nearly 100 years without knowing what I said to my wife during an episode of The Bachelor.”

The measure will next be considered by the Assembly Judiciary Committee.

Mike Gatto is the Chairman of the Privacy and Consumer Protection Committee, and the longest-serving current member of the State Assembly. He represents California’s 43rd Assembly District, which includes Burbank, Glendale, La Cañada Flintridge, La Crescenta, Montrose, and the Los Angeles neighborhoods of Atwater Village, East Hollywood, Franklin Hills, Hollywood Hills, Los Feliz, and Silver Lake.