Antitrust, privacy concerns lead Senator Klobuchar to press Big Tech on Matter

US Senator Amy Klobuchar, who serves as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s antitrust subcommittee, has concerns about the growing dominance of leading tech firms in the smart home space and how they will (or won’t) protect consumers’ privacy.  In June, Klobuchar pressed both Amazon and Google to provide details regarding their support and use of the new industry standard, Matter, announced only a month ago.

Matter has been developed and supported by a large number of tech powerhouses, including Apple, Samsung, Google, Comcast, Schneider Electric, and several hundred other brands. The goal is to make device-to-device connections and data sharing much simpler, but some have fears about privacy – a common theme in the smart home industry given that smart speakers have been found to “listen in” on people’s conversations and Vivint Smart Home was recently fined $20 million for obtaining consumers’ credit reports without their consent.

Klobuchar’s request for the length of time and level of support for the Matter industry standard follows a congressional inquiry into the potential anticompetitive practices of two of the largest players in the smart speaker technology arena – Google and Amazon. Congressional hearings followed complaints by Sonos and other device makers that Big Tech companies are using smart speakers to extend their dominance in advertising.

According to Interpret’s Smart Home Matrix™: Consumer research series, checking the weather continues to be the primary use of those with smart speakers. Creating shopping lists or making purchase decisions are much less frequent activities, ranking 12th and 21st on the list of activities, while controlling smart home devices is 6th on the list.

“The implementation of Matter may cause smart home controls to rise as a use case, but it may also give companies that have entertainment and web searching assets an advantage if those assets can be integrated in a meaningful way,” noted Stuart Sikes, Senior VP at Interpret. “This could definitely provide an advantage to the tech giants.”