Are you reading this on your smartphone? If so, Illinois lawmakers fear that companies could be using your device to eavesdrop on you and your children, so they’ve introduced a measure that would force companies like Apple and Facebook to let you know.
“We know some level of this activity is happening and we think that families and parents deserve to know if they’re being listened to,” says Abe Scarr, director of the Public Interest Research Group and an advocate for the Keep Internet Devices Safe Act that is currently making its way through the Illinois legislature.
The bill requires that a company inform its customers and get their approval before it turns on, enables, or otherwise uses “a digital device’s microphone to listen for or collection information.”
Scarr says that the bill was drafted in response to a warning that the FBI issued to parents and caregivers two years ago. The Bureau cautioned that any device that connects to the Internet (such as the Amazon Echo) can potentially create a privacy and security risk for consumers.
The Keep Internet Devices Safe Act passed the Illinois Senate on April 10, but not without undergoing some changes in wording. According to The Daily Illini, trade lobbyists representing companies like Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, weren’t happy that the bill allowed consumers to open class action lawsuits.
Now, if the bill passes the House, only the Attorney General will be able to enforce it.
“I’m appreciative that both opponents and proponents have been very open,” says sponsor Sen. Cristina Castro, D-Elgin. “The bill is a good bill. There are a few little minutiae things that we need to work through.”
Illinois is only the latest state to draft a cybersecurity bill. In 2018, California became the first state to pass a law addressing “smart” devices and their potential to compromise a user’s privacy. California bill SB-327 requires that manufacturers equip such devices with reasonable security features.