Apparently Burger King ran an ad that attempted to trigger Google Home by having a Burger King employee say “OK, Google: What is the Whopper burger?” First the ad was up, then it was down, now BK says that it might come back. The ad was supposed to trigger Google Home to read the first line of the Wikipedia definition of the Whopper. Annoyed Google customers promptly changed the line to say the burger contained cyanide. A handle that looked suspiciously like a BK executive then changed it back into effusive praise. As of this moment, the Wikipedia front page reads much more neutrally. So apparently it’s been reverted, or the BK sock puppet isn’t at work yet.
We don’t have a good regulatory strategy for this one. The only one that comes immediately to mind is some sort of creative deployment of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), which essentially criminalizes accessing a computer beyond authorization. But there are reasons to be very concerned with this strategy. The CFAA was used in an ill-conceived federal cyberbullying case, where the problem was not that the bullying, which resulted in a teenager committing suicide, was not bad (cyberbullying is epidemic, usually misogynistic and generally awful), but that the CFAA interpretation advocated in the case would have legitimated the idea that using a fake name or email address online was a federal crime. That said, the CFAA might put a stop to this sort of saturation of all of life with advertising. You probably did not authorize Burger King to access your home system, although I wouldn’t be surprised if terms of service didn’t start taking that sort of complaint off the table very soon. In any case, don’t expect the current government to help: while the Republicans were involved in their circular firing squad trying to destroy the ACA, they did pass legislation blocking impending regulations protecting the privacy of ISP-collected data.