On the television show Frasier, radio therapist Dr. Frasier Crane would start every conversation with a deep, sonorous "I'm listening." Some California legislators want your devices to do the same.
To address concerns that internet-of-things devices are recording conversations and collecting data surreptitiously, proposed SB 327 would force manufacturers to consider security measures and "I'm listening" indicators—such as flashing lights and stated warnings—as central design considerations. Because the bill covers a wide range of products and California has a high concentration of technology companies, it would have widespread implications on other device markets.
At this point, this bill has only three short sections, and its brevity raises questions:
- First, what are “reasonable” security features? Will the California legislature define this term, or at least provide examples of reasonable features?
- Second, the bill is clear that at the point of sale, purchasers must be notified about a product’s ability to collect data. But must family members or visitors also be notified—how far does “consumer” reach?
- Third, will there be carve-outs for devices already regulated by another regime, such as federal law?
Dubbing the bill the “teddy bear and toaster act,” critics of the bill say that the regulation would impose unreasonable one-size-fits-all requirements upon manufacturers. Some manufacturers may find these requirements too burdensome, and this could chill technological innovation.