In NSA America, TV watches you. Thankfully, that scenario hasn't happened yet, but two lawmakers are working on legislation to make sure there are strict regulations in place when it does.
The Hill reports that Reps. Michael Capuano and Walter Jones have just introduced the We Are Watching You Act to the House. Despite its foreboding name, the proposed law aims to regulate the potential proliferation of cameras in TV set-top boxes and DVRs.
The proposed law specifically targets a number of patents for DVR cameras that have sprung up in recent years. For example, Verizon applied for a patent in late December that would allow it to equip DVRs with a camera and a mic. The camera would watch TV viewers to deliver more personalized ads to them. One example mentioned in the filing is a scenario in which the camera detected a couple cuddling and then delivering an ad for contraceptives on the television.
Both Rep. Jones and Rep. Capuano feel that such technology is a massive invasion of privacy, especially in light of how much data the NSA collects on Americans:
“Allowing this type of technology to be installed in the homes of American citizens without their consent would be an egregious invasion of privacy,” said Congressman Jones. “When the government has an unfortunate history of secretly collecting private citizens’ information from technology providers, we must ensure that safeguards are in place to protect Americans’ rights.”
“This may sound preposterous, but it is neither a joke nor an exaggeration. These DVRs would essentially observe consumers as they watch television as a way to super-target ads. It is an incredible invasion of privacy,” stated Congressman Capuano. “Given what we have recently learned about the access that the government has to the phone numbers we call, the emails we send and the websites we visit, it is important for consumers to decide for themselves whether they want this technology. Think about what you do in the privacy of your own home and then think about how you would feel sharing that information with your cable company, their advertisers and your government.”
Jones and Capuano recognize that DVRs with cameras are going to happen sooner or later. They will not try to ban the technology, but their bill would make it so that your cable provider would have to ask permission before being able to watch you. If you do give permission, your cable company would still have to alert you when the camera is recording via an on screen warning.
It should be noted that your TV won't be watching you anytime soon. Microsoft's Kinect in the Xbox One, however, will be watching you, but it's a little unclear if this law would apply to that. Besides, all Microsoft wants to do is give you achievements for watching TV.