Politics · January 18, 2021

New York Governor: Disclosure of Smart Devices’ Recording Capabilities

Governor Cuomo Announces Proposal to Require Prominent Disclosure of Smart Devices’ Recording Capabilities as Part of 2021 State of the State

Proposed Nation-Leading Legislation Would Require Makers of Recording Devices—Such as Smartphones, Smart Speakers and Smart TVs—to Prominently Display Those Capabilities

New York (STL.NewsGovernor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a proposal to require companies to prominently disclose information about devices that can record and retain and transmit recordings, such as smartphones, smart speakers and smart TVs.   The Governor will propose legislation requiring the disclosure so that New Yorkers can make informed decisions when they choose to buy an internet-connected device that is capable of recording, and so that written warnings about recording are not hidden or written in small print.  The bill would require that smart devices disclose that they are recording their owners before a device is set up, so that owners can manage their settings accordingly.

“We’ve all heard reports of smart speakers and other connected devices recording people without their knowledge, and that possibility raises important questions about privacy for the future,” Governor Cuomo said.  “This legislation requires the makers of these devices to disclose the facts so New Yorkers can make informed decisions about the capabilities of what they buy.  Everyone has a right to know the facts about the devices they buy, and those facts should be prominently displayed, not hidden in the fine print.”

Over 80 percent of Americans own a smartphone or other digital assistant device, the vast majority of which are equipped with internal microphones or other audio recording capabilities.  A 2019 Pew Research survey revealed that beyond smartphones, a quarter of U.S. adults also have voice-controlled smart speakers in their phones.

54 percent of smart speaker owners express worry about how much of their personal audio information is collected and 66 percent reject better personalization of smart speaker recommendations if it means more of their personal data is collected.  These statistics demonstrate that consumers who are educated are empowered to make decisions that are appropriate for their personal privacy and will ensure this legislation benefits New Yorkers.