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New California Law Bans Smart TV Snooping

by Keith Wagstaff /
An attendee passes LG Electronics Inc. Smart TV displays during the 2011 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., on Friday, Jan. 7, 2011. The 2011 CES tradeshow features 2,500 global technology companies presenting consumer tech products and is expected to draw over 100,000 attendees. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
An attendee passes LG Electronics Inc. Smart TV displays during the 2011 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., on Friday, Jan. 7, 2011. The 2011 CES tradeshow features 2,500 global technology companies presenting consumer tech products and is expected to draw over 100,000 attendees. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty ImagesBloomberg via Getty Images, file

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Californians no longer have to worry about their TVs listening in on their conversations.

On Tuesday, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill making it illegal for companies to use data gathered through voice recognition features to serve customers targeted ads.

Increasingly, connected TVs from companies like Samsung and set-top boxes from Apple, Amazon and Roku are using voice commands to control their experience.

Related:Stream Wars: New Roku 4 Can Handle 4K Video

The new bill prohibits "any actual recordings of spoken word collected through the operation of a voice recognition feature" from being used "for the purpose of improving the voice recognition feature" or "for any advertising purpose."

The bill also forbids law enforcement agencies from requesting special tools that let them listen in to that voice data. The law will take effect on Jan. 1, 2016.

"Smart TVs and voice-recognition technologies are innovative and convenient tools, but giving up our right to privacy in the home because we want to utilize voice-command features to change the channel is simply unacceptable," California state Assemblyman Mike Gatto, who helped write the bill as chairman of the state's Privacy and Consumer Protection Committee, said in a statement.

"It might be a little creepy," he added, "if the family discussing financial issues finds themselves receiving targeted commercials from bankruptcy attorneys as they watch their favorite show."

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