I keep hoping to see some serious statement that Amazon is going to be the privacy superhero and do all the right things. All of them to protect your privacy and my privacy. I still have my own Amazon Echo, use it often, but I find myself unplugging it more. I unplugged the Google Home that was in my bedroom. Neither has proved 100% trustworthy. I blogged about how I found it creepy, to a small degree, but kept them going. I love the convenience, but am bothered by their lack of concern for my privacy.
Various, perhaps I should say numerous, privacy groups have argued that stronger laws are needed to protect people from these always-on devices. A United Kingdom-based report this week stated that some, ahem, intimate sounds in the bedroom, would trigger the device to start listening. The same has been reported for Apple’s Siri as well as Google Home. I list recent articles at the end of this post on concerns about child privacy and Amazon, about the UK report on your bedroom is not a safe place for "noise," and how government regulation is potentially going to change the voice tech game.
The Terrible Truth About Alexa
So, if you are still bothered by Amazon’s policies, or lack thereof, to protect your consumer privacy, read on. There are also loopholes in the Apple and Google approach, so they are not immune to these privacy issues. I want to share about an on-device voice technology (instead of it going to the cloud like Amazon, Google, and Apple) method to maintain a voice assistant with less risk; It is called Snips. The Snips Voice Platform is not for the faint of heart, but if you have the desire you could build a personal, private, artificial intelligence (AI) that is capable of serving as a voice assistant. I have not yet tried to build one, but it is on my project shortlist. The Snips.AI YouTube channel and blog showcases Android, Raspberry Pi, Mac OS, Linux, among other devices and platforms that can use its voice technology. You will find videos explaining topics like the following:
- Raspberry Pi Snips Installation
- Mac OS Installation for Snips Voice Assistant
- Create a Custom Voice Assistant with Snips
The Sun (UK) post on the latest alleged Alexa spying acts: Outrage as Amazon device listens to Brits having sex and swearingThe Next Web report by Ravie Lakshmanan: Amazon confirms it retains your Alexa voice recordings indefinitely. Here is my Medium post on why I still use the Amazon Echo. I am more regularly questioning that stance and will continue to share my experience and tests and changes. May 23, 2019: Senator Coons presses Amazon on consumer privacy practices for Alexa devices
June 28, 2019: Amazon response to Senator Coons request(this file is a PDF that will either automatically download to your PC or device or allow you to view it via browser).Lindsey O'Donnell at Threatpost has an excellent podcast article and transcription that is worth your time, if you want to understand a bit about what might be coming down the road for voice technology and government regulation: Amazon Alexa, Google Home Are On a Collision Course With Regulation.