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Is Your Smart Speaker Secretly Spying On You?

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Is Your Smart Speaker Secretly Spying On You?

The Amazon Echo, it's the gadget that everyone seems to have been talking about this Christmas. In fact, in recent times, things like the Echo and competitors the Apple HomePod and Google Home have become increasingly popular.

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However, there are a load of people out there who think that the whole idea of having a device owned by a gigantic company that listens to you as you talk to it is a bit weird.

Well, it is, isn't it?

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Imagine when you were younger - if someone had told you that this would exist in 2018 you'd have told them to go get their head checked. But here we are.

So, is Alexa spying on you? Well, given that it listens to you and remembers what you say, the short answer seems to be yes. Obviously, though, it's a bit more complex than that.

OK Google, can you enslave all humanity? Credit: PA
OK Google, can you enslave all humanity? Credit: PA

However, is that such a bad thing? After all, the main purpose of it is to make life easier. The more it knows, the easier it can make life for us, right?

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Have a think about this case. A woman from Portland Oregon recently found out that her Echo had recorded a conversation between her and her husband and sent it to an employee of his.

Seriously creepy, no?

Amazon explained that away by saying that Alexa heard a 'wake word' and woke up. That's when she started acting of her own accord.

Credit: PA
Credit: PA
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Amazon said: "Echo woke up due to a word in background conversation sounding like [the Echo's 'wake word'] 'Alexa'.

"Then, the subsequent conversation was heard as a 'send message' request. At which point, Alexa said out loud 'To whom?' At which point, the background conversation was interpreted as a name in the customer's contact list.

"Alexa asked, '[contact name], right?' Alexa then interpreted background conversation as 'right'."

Got that? Good. It's still fucking creepy though.

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Credit: PA
Credit: PA

Hey, here's more creepiness. Amongst the 12,000 (!) terms and conditions that Amazon Echo devices come with, it says this: "Alexa processes and retains your Alexa interactions . . . including voice inputs . . . and content you provide or receive through [Alexa]' and that 'your messages, communications requests and related interactions' are all stored in its online servers."

Hmm. That's basically an admission.

However, it does also say that 'she' is trained to wake up only when a specific trigger word is spoken. That's when she starts recording.

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Silkie Carlo, from Big Brother Watch - a privacy campaign group - recently told The Mail: "The very idea of a smart home is one of ambient surveillance and constant recording. Many smart devices are essentially internet-connected surveillance devices that their owners have limited control of.

"The terms are deliberately set out to protect the company's interests rather than the user's. Families should think carefully about the security risks before spending their money on these devices."

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There you have it. I'll go take my tin foil hat off, shall I?

Featured Image Credit: PA

Topics: News, Interesting, Technology

Tom Wood
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