California outlaws using info from eavesdropping TVs to target ads

Samsung Smart TV

California is banning advertisers from targeting ads using information collected from high-tech TVs that can eavesdrop on their owners.

The state's governor inked a new law on Tuesday that bans companies from "using or selling" recordings made by SmartTVs in order to customize commercials. Some modern televisions equipped with voice recognition allow viewers to control the TV with audible commands.

Samsung issued an unsettling warning in February when it told customers that SmartTVs are constantly listening and transmitting recordings back to the company, whether or not the feature is turned on.

Samsung said the information is only used to help improve the voice command feature, but it was unsettling for people who thought their living room conversations were private. It also tipped the public off to a potential for abuse.

"It might be a little creepy if the family discussing financial issues finds themselves receiving targeted commercials from bankruptcy attorneys as they watch their favorite show," said state Assemblyman Mike Gatto, who authored the bill outlawing the practice in California.

The new law will also require companies to notify TV owners that they may be recorded.

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