Cameras in your cable box? No way, said Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.), who has introduced a new bill that would stop technology and TV video services from monitoring viewing using cameras or microphones built-in to set-top boxes or DVRs in order to analyze viewing behavior and serve up targeted ads.
The bill, called the We Are Watching You Act of 2013, would prohibit video service operators from collecting visual or audio data from the vicinity of the device without express permission from the consumer. For viewers that opt in, the monitoring company would have to display a "we are watching you" message on the screen and provide to the consumer what types of information is being collected and how it will be used.
While such Big Brother TV monitoring hasn't yet been deployed, Verizon last year filed a patent for monitoring technology that would use infrared cameras and microphones to track and collect consumer behavior in the vicinity of a TV or mobile device. According to the patent application, the technology could detect ambient action, like people eating, exercising, reading, sleeping and more.
"This may sound preposterous but it's neither a joke nor an exaggeration," Capuano said in a statement. "These DVRs would essentially observe consumers as they watch television as a way to super-target ads. It is an incredible invasion of privacy."
Microsoft's new Kinect also uses sophisticated tracking to detect body positions, but the sensor can be turned off and the consumer is in control of their own personal data, the company explained in a blog post.
"I think it's important to begin this conversation before we get too far down the road," Capuano told The Boston Globe. The bill is co-sponsored by Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.)