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Senator questions Amazon and Google’s smart home devices

The tech giants have signed into an interoperability alliance — but for how long?

Two Google Nest smart speakers on a wooden table

Amazon and Google have signed into an industry alliance that allows smart home devices from different companies to sync. However, a senator, citing antitrust concerns, wants to know how committed to the agreement the tech giants are.

Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) wrote to the CEOs of both companies, asking pointed questions about how their smart home devices will allow competition and user privacy, according to Reuters and The Hill.

She specifically wants to know how Amazon and Google will comply with a newly announced industry alliance known as “Matter,” which both companies have endorsed. The alliance, which also includes Apple and Ikea, allows smart home devices from different manufacturers to sync with each other.

Klobuchar, who chairs the Senate Judiciary subcommittee overseeing antitrust, wrote to the CEOs that she was concerned about testimony by the companies’ attorneys at last week’s Senate hearing.

“I am deeply concerned about competition and the future of innovation related to connected home devices,” Klobuchar wrote. 

“For what period of time do you commit to support the Matter interoperability project, and who at your companies is responsible for determining whether to extend the length of your commitment to Matter?”

Last week’s hearing followed complaints by Sonos and other home device makers about anti-competitive tactics. At that hearing, Klobuchar noted that Amazon’s Echo line captures more than 50% of the smart speaker market, and Google’s Nest products account for 30%.

The senator also wants to know what Amazon and Google are doing with all the data that their smart home devices gather. “Your corporate witnesses testified that you value consumer privacy, but I need more details about how your companies use sensitive data collected through connected home devices and digital voice assistants,” Klobuchar wrote.

Due mainly to the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of smart devices in the average US home has more than doubled over the past two years. And with adults working at home and children schooling at home, nearly 40% of Americans added more internet-connected devices to their homes during the pandemic.

Smart home device makers Amazon, Apple, and Google began promoting device interoperability in 2019. The aim was to increase compatibility, so your smart home system could work with voice assistants such as Amazon Echo, Google Home, or Apple Siri.

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