There have always been concerns about smart speakers such as Amazon Echo and Google Home, listening to your private conversations at home or offices, all the time.
Alamy 3 Alexa is a voice-controlled digital assistant that powers Amazon Echo smart speakers Outage tracker Down Detector received hundreds of reports about Alexa not working at around 8am UK time.
Which illustrates a broader point: The privacy risks of smart speakers and virtual assistants might be more obvious than those of other computing devices and services that we’ve already largely accepted as a society, such as Gmail or iPhones.
Limp, a veteran of Amazon who started out building the Kindle, doesn’t seem to think so — or at least, he believes that it will play out differently from platform wars of the past.
"I think this is the beginning of the 'internet of evidence' where lots of pieces of smart devices are going to show up in criminal prosecutions," Andrew Guthrie Ferguson, author of The Rise of Big Data Policing: Surveillance, Race, and the Future of Law Enforcement, told Day 6.
The general consensus is that our mobile devices and smart tech is monitoring us, which is possible as everything seems to contain a microphone now… even television remotes. Luckily reputatable companies will have a way to view and delete your voice commands and other data easily within their interface.
This means that Amazon is collecting information on everyone that visits your home and when based on their mobile devices that they bring along with them. The device can easily listen and record based on specific marketing or “national security” phrases and wait to upload the information until the next wake word is spoken.
For $60, you can buy this AmazonBasics Microwave and find out what it's like to say, "Alexa, microwave 3 ounces of popcorn." Spoiler: It feels pretty natural. Saying "Alexa, microwave for 2 minutes," or "Alexa, stop cooking" feels like the way we should have been using microwaves all along.
It’s an example of how manufacturers can build voice-controlled devices using the Alexa Connect Kit, “without worrying about managing cloud services, writing an Alexa skill, or developing complex networking and security firmware,” as Amazon says.
Amazon has patented a new version of its virtual assistant Alexa which can automatically detect when you’re ill and offer to sell you medicine. Alexa first suggests some chicken soup to cure her cold, and then offers to order cough drops on Amazon.
This is how Amazon has infiltrated the home with its voice-activated devices and service. The company also introduced Echo Auto, a device that brings Alexa into the car, using smartphone connectivity for operation.
And maybe, just maybe, that’s because most consumers have given up on the idea of privacy in our times — or believe that the risk-reward balance of technologies like Alexa tilt in the direction of our new artificially intelligent overlords.
SLU is quick to note that it’s “the first college or university in the country to bring Amazon Alexa-enabled devices, managed by Alexa for Business, into every student residence hall room and student apartment on campus.” It’s certainly not the first to adopt Amazon’s smart speakers, but it’s among the largest scale for this sort of deployment.