Senate Judiciary Committee Presses Google, Amazon For Smart Home Info

Senate Subcommittee

The chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights has called on Amazon and Google’s Alphabet to extend more information about how smart home devices and virtual assistants will meet user privacy and competition requirements.

A subcommittee hearing last week — Protecting Innovation and Consumer Choice in Home Technologies — raised issues about dominance and competition in the smart home sector.

U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) sent a letter to Alphabet and Amazon asking both to respond by July 2 regarding how data is collected and used. The letter was sent to Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

“I am deeply concerned about competition and the future of innovation related to connected home devices … The hearing testimony raised profound concerns about the ways your companies may use that power to suppress competition in the emerging connected home technology industry, as well as your access to and use of highly sensitive personal information,” Klobuchar said in the letter, which was dated Tuesday (June 22).

“More than 94 million Americans already have connected speakers. And we are just at the beginning; these connected home technologies will continue to develop and expand beyond lighting and thermostats to appliances like connected refrigerators and washing machines. In the years to come, they will play an even larger role in our everyday lives,” Klobuchar wrote.

The subcommittee chair also asked specifically about supported devices regarding Matter, a new smart home interoperability standard jointly developed by tech industry leaders like Apple, Google, Amazon and others.

Connected smart home devices took off during the pandemic as people hunkered down at home. A survey conducted by in October 2020 showed that 91 percent of respondents already had at least one smart home device. Some 64 percent indicated they were planning to acquire that technology in 2021.