Arizona Bill Would Force Apps To Disclose When They're Watching You

By Holliday Moore
Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services
Published: Thursday, February 14, 2019 - 7:27am
Updated: Thursday, February 14, 2019 - 9:05am

Arizona lawmakers want smartphones and other electronic devices with access to built-in microphones and cameras to clearly disclose when they're watching you.

Often, with a click to download software, consumers unwittingly give application companies permission to access their cameras and speakers, allowing the app to follow private conversations and movements.

State Rep. Kelly Townsend said she learned about it after two separate conversations with family members kicked off unsolicited ad campaigns.

In one case, she said she was explaining to her son why his uncle uses a CPAP machine.

"The next day, I started getting ads for CPAP machines,'' Townsend said through Facebook.

Then there was a conversation in Spanish about tamales at Christmas.

"For the next week I got all my ads in Spanish,'' Townsend said. "I hadn't Googled it.''

She has written a bill that would force tech companies to disclose monitoring up front.

"If you're going to use a microphone to collect information that you're hearing on somebody's smart phone in the background, or if you're going to use the camera to determine what to market to them, you need to tell them so on the front end," she said.

House Bill 2524, cleared its first hurdle Wednesday as the House Technology Committee voted 5-2.

No one spoke against the bill, but the Arizona Chamber of Commerce has noted concerns that it will impact emerging technologies.

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