Home Device Spying Law Gathers Dust

You-Are-Under-Surveillance-Sign-K-7664If black people don’t know by now then you need to wake up to this. Your home and mobile devices have been spying on you and delivering the details of your life to marketers, device manufacturers, utilities, insurance companies, possibly your employer and many others.

Currently there is a bill sitting somewhere in Congress that will address the use of spying technology in consumer devices. Sadly however H.R.2356, the “We Are Watching You Act of 2013” has been languishing in legislative purgatory since June of last year. The bill was introduced by Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.).  Neither the House nor the Senate has voted on the bill and it doesn’t look like it will happen this year either.

The bill is intended to stop or at least restrict the use of technology by television service providers who wish to monitor customers using cameras or microphones built in to set-top boxes or DVRs. Television service providers want to use this technology in order to analyze viewing behavior and serve up highly targeted advertising. You are probably asking how targeted this advertising can get? If the device detects a couple cuddling on the sofa then maybe the ads will promote romantic vacations, romantic comedy movies or possibly contraceptive products.

The bill addresses the use of home consumer technology devices such as televisions to spy on the consumer. It bans video service operators such as your cable company from watching or listening to you with built in cameras or microphones found on DVRs, set-top TV boxes, and smart televisions without the consumer’s express permission. The bill would also address other devices such as the Microsoft Xbox One which is also used to spy on users. Microsoft has built in to its Xbox special cameras and sensors known as Kinect.

Microsoft Xbox with Kinect

Microsoft Xbox with Kinect

You maybe interested in to know that Facebook is currently spying on you using technology that operates your phone’s microphone to listen to what is happening around you when you post to the website from the phone. In addition smart televisions are spying on users through the built in webcams. So you think you’re watching television when in actuality it is watching you right back.

In 2012 Verizon filed a patent for a monitoring technology  that uses infrared cameras and microphones capable of detecting if subscribers are eating, exercising, reading or sleeping near the monitoring device. Verizon was denied the patent. If Verizon’s subscribers agree to the monitoring the bill would mandate that the company display  a “we are watching you” message on the screen and  reveal what data is being collected. 

“This may sound preposterous but it’s 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.”Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.)

Capuano believes the recording and analyzing of viewer behavior by television cable providers and networks may threaten individual privacy rights. His legislation allows consumers to opt out of monitoring at any time. In addition television service providers would be required to tell consumers what information is being collected and how it would be used.

Capuano’s bill comes at a time when there is general outrage sparked by the revelations of NSA whistle blower Edward Snowden. Snowden revealed that the National Security Agency has collected the telephone records of millions of Americans and accesses the databases of the nation’s biggest Internet companies.

Some privacy experts believe public anger at the NSA and Capuano’s proposal is a clear indicator that the nation is fed up and that the technology is slowly eating away at the right to privacy.

Technology analyst Roger Kay of  Endpoint Technologies Associates Inc. said, “Here we are again in this sort of Orwellian moment. The human institutions haven’t had time to catch up with the technology.”

Breaking It Down

My first question is; do black people even care about privacy? I have to answer yes. As much as any American. But are we aware of the incredible advancement in technology that allows corporations to take a seat on the sidelines of our lives and watch us like predatory birds? The answer to that is probably no. If you are reading this then you need to take an inventory of the devices in your home that are spying on you. You need to know what information is being broadcast via your television, game console, thermostat, cell phone and Internet connection. What is happening here is that the corporate world has decided that since there is nothing to say we can’t do it then we will do it. Rep. Capuano sees this. This is a clear failure of any ethical and moral restraint. All black people should be aroused if not outraged. How dare these corporations even consider using the technology they sell us against us. Yes, against us. They are watching everything we do and collecting information for their databases to use in the control of our lives and earnings. Black people are in danger, just as the rest of America is, of being brainwashed into thinking that our privacy is being protected. It is not! We are being fooled into believing that we are acting for our own good by reeling in the government while corporations run wild over our personal privacy. Are we going to remain that stupid? We are clamoring for Congress to do something about the NSA but not about private industry. Why? Are we already brainwashed?

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