“Alexa, keep my personal information private.”
State Sen. Jeff Brandes is aiming to do just that via a new bill to protect citizens’ personal information in the use of their cell phones and microphone-enabled household technology, like Amazon’s Echo (that friendly “Alexa” who responds to voice commands) and Google Home.
The legislation, SB 1256, would require law enforcement agencies to obtain warrants in order to search communications and location data in devices like Alexa and Google Home, whose popularity has skyrocketed in recent years as technology integrates itself into the everyday lives of average Americans.
The Amazon Echo allows customers to play music, control household appliances, read the news, search online and even make calls or send text messages, all with the sound of the owner’s voice.
Devices like the Echo and Google Home have raised questions about privacy and have concerned some, who say the information could be dangerous if it falls into the wrong hands or the devices are hacked.
Alexa and Google Home are always listening and analyzing user behaviors, tracking everything from preferred home temperature, favorite TV shows and even what’s cooking for dinner.
Brandes said Thursday that gadgets like the Amazon Echo and Google Home should be protected under the 4th Amendment of the Constitution, which protects Americans from unreasonable searches and seizures of property.
“As technology continues to become more integrated in our daily lives, it is critical that the law recognize that electronic devices are the modern day equivalent of papers and effects,” said Brandes. “It is my hope that this collaborative effort will accomplish my goal of bringing us into this day and age technologically without compromising law enforcement’s ability to provide public safety.”
Brandes said he worked hand-in-hand with technology industry experts and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement before filing the measure to make sure Floridians’ privacy is maintained.
The legislation would ensure law enforcement agencies could only collect information about an individual’s location, cell phone or a home enabled device with an authorized warrant, barring certain “exigent” circumstances.