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The Federal Trade Commission is warning developers of a number of applications for smart phones that their products include spy software that could violate the Federal Trade Commission Act, and they need to be notifying consumers about their capabilities.

WND reported last year the problem with electronic spying through children’s toys, which was investigated by the Electronic Privacy Information Center. EPIC asked the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice to host a workshop regarding “always-on” consumer devices, including children’s toys.

The devices routinely record and store private communications from inside Americans’ homes, sometimes even forwarding the data to outside agencies.

“Police State USA: How Orwell’s Nightmare is Becoming our Reality,” is the basic handbook on how American arrived at the point of being a de facto police state that essentially ignores the Constitution.

But the practices may violate wiretap restrictions, state privacy laws, the Federal Trade Commission Act and more, the privacy group said then.

EPIC also has been involved in the new issue, noting this week that the FTC has issued warnings to 12 Android app developers.

Their products use audio beacons to track consumers across devices and monitor television viewing habits, the group said. The embedded Silverpush software “constantly listens for inaudible signals emitted by TV commercials and secretly collects and transmits viewing data,” EPIC reported.

The organization also has raised concerns about “cross-device tracking” software that “links smart phone activity with what they see on their laptop or television.”

The FTC has been advising the app developers that if their product allows “third parties to monitor television-viewing habits of U.S. consumers and your statements or user interface stated or implied otherwise, this could constitution a violation of the Federal Trade Commission Act.”

The companies should, then, “disclose this fact to potential customers, empowering them to make an informed decision about what information to disclose in exchange for using your application.”

“Commission staff will continue to monitor your mobile application in the coming months,” the federal agency said.

EPIC also had suggested that some of the electronic capabilities could violate the federal wiretap act.

“These apps were capable of listening in the background and collecting information about consumers without notifying them,” said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Companies should tell people what information is collected, how it is collected, and who it’s shared with.”

The FTC said its letters “warn the app developers that if their statements or user interface state or imply that the apps in question are not collecting and transmitting television viewing data when in fact they do, that the app developers could be in violation of Section 5 of the FTC Act.”

The dispute over “always-on” toys developed in 2015 when EPIC Executive Director Marc Rotenberg and others told Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Edith Ramirez about the problem of “surreptitious” recording inside consumers’ homes.

They were asking the FTC to undertake a sector-wide investigation and urge the Department of Justice to determine “whether these devices violate federal wiretap laws that prohibit the unlawful interception of private communications.”

“Police State USA: How Orwell’s Nightmare is Becoming our Reality,” is the basic handbook on how American arrived at the point of being a de facto police state that essentially ignores the Constitution.

For example, EPIC reported, Google’s Chromium browser contains code that routinely captures private communications.

According to Rick Falkvinge, the founder of Sweden’s Pirate party, ‘Without consent, Google’s code had downloaded a black box of code that – according to itself – had turned on the microphone and was actively listening to your room.'”

EPIC said Google “conceded that the browser contained this code.”

As a result, the browser “constantly ‘listens’ to the user using the computer’s built-in microphone, and when the user speaks the words ‘OK Google,’ Chromium activates a voice-to-text search function. This means that Chromium users are subject to constant voice recording in their private homes, without their permission or even their knowledge.”

Previously, the group spotlighted Mattel’s “Hello Barbie,” a WiFi-connected doll with a built-in microphone.

“Hello Barbie records and transmits children’s conversations to Mattel, where they are analyzed to determine ‘all the child’s likes and dislikes.’ … Kids using ‘Hello Barbie’ won’t only be talking to a doll, they’ll be talking directly to a toy conglomerate whose only interest in them is financial,” EPIC reported.

Samsung’s Internet-connected SmartTV also has a built-in mic that always is on and “routinely intercepts and records the private communications of consumers in their homes.”

“When the voice recognition feature is enabled, everything a user says in front of the Samsung SmartTV is recorded and transmitted over the Internet to a third party regardless whether it is related to the provision of the service.”

Then there’s Microsoft. Its voice and motion recorder called Kinect “is now installed in Xbox video-game consoles.”

“The Kinect sensor tracks and records users’ voice and hand gestures when users say the word ‘Xbox’ followed by various permissible command options.”

Amazon is in the game, too.

“Amazon’s voice-activated computer program, ‘Alexa,’ is becoming increasingly prominent in the consumer marketplace. Amazon has deployed its Alexa ‘always on’ voice recognition software in its own Internet-connected devices, and has made the Alexa voice recognition software available to third-party developers,” the complaint alleged.

And there’s more.

“Next Labs, a company owned by Google, is the manufacturer of Internet-connected thermostats, smoke detectors and security cameras targeted to home owners. The ‘Nest Cam’ is equipped with a microphone, and streams video and sound to a consumer’s smart phone in real time. Nest also records and stores 30 days of the footage that it collects from inside the homes of consumers,” the group said.

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