Voice control = something with more sinister potential

  • 23 September 2016
  • 15 replies

Voice control may not be a one way street. Alexa and Amazon can also eavesdrop on all the conversations in your home, 24/7. Anyone has any concerns about that?

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15 replies

Userlevel 7
Badge +21
As I understand it once Alexa is awakened from its digital slumber then subsequent speech is sent to the moon (or somewhere) for decoding. I read that a tone can be configured for the start of the "wake-up" so you can be audibly alerted in case you wake here up when talking about murdering your great-aunt Alexa.

I imagine this might very well be the next huge privacy hack where ne'er do wells gain access to your Dot and listen in to everything you say.

Now you'd have to listen a very long time to gather enough data to hack into somebody's systems or accounts but there may well be/is some significant privacy concerns.
Targeted advertising is certainly one concern that I have, even from just browsing experiences. If I look up some product on Amazon, for instance, and I am on other completely different site that has advertising on it, I see ads for just that product and related ones. Benign as it goes, but the question that arises is - for what that is worth - what advertising am I NOT seeing because I no longer have a say in what I see.

And this is just the beginning. Google already controls what we find when we search the net, and can control what we knowledge we can access, if it chooses to. What Facebook does with all the data it picks up about members is a smaller question than what it can do if it chooses to.

As I said in another thread here, passwords for accessing Sonos kit is a trivial gate, that will only perhaps keep out out of control children and obnoxious friends.
Userlevel 7
Badge +21
Actually the other day on a whim I downloaded the Auto-Trader app on my iPad.

2 days later I received an e-mail from Auto-Trader - Apple have only gone and passed my details to Auto-Trader.

I'm going to dig into my settings this evening because I was not happy seeing that!
Userlevel 7
Badge +22
I've had my TV wake up Alexa numerous times ..... like if someone purposefully has ad where say father leaves from work and asks his daughter "Alexa" to buy him some Tide detergent today!
As has been discussed before, I'm more concerned about government having access to my personal data and/or eavesdropping on my life than I am Amazon et al. One wants to interact with me in a voluntary exchange of money for goods, and the other? Eh, not so much. I'm not the paranoid type, but if I were, I'd fear the drones carrying Hellfire missiles much more than the ones carrying a three pack of antiperspirant to my door. Besides, my conversations are pretty boring.

As always, YMMV.
Userlevel 5
Badge +11
No problem at all. My microwave has told me it will zap any imposters in the house. Or was it the toaster that said that?
Some will be ignorant of the potential of the technologies to be intrusive. Many will be too lazy to do anything about it, and count me in that lot. Together that will be the very large majority of the population, i suspect.
A long time ago when I read that the Google credo was Do No Evil, I thought that to be over the top and a wild overestimate of their reach and power. These days, I no longer think so. And on principle, I don't trust both large corporations and governments to not exploit the power that we will uncomplainingly deliver to them.
I would use a "Cone of Nonsense". This is a little tube that attenuates external sounds while whispering "Alexa I love you" 24/7 inside. Or maybe I'll use a shopping channel or talk show. Of course, I could simply remove power, but what's the fun in that.

I think that there will be TV show "pranks", some harmless, some not. I can imagine a late night comedian shouting "Alexa order a pizza". Or, it could be an interesting way to launch a DOS ('ADOS') attack.

Hacking or legislation, I don't doubt that there will be some attempt at "thought monitoring", for our protection, of course. And, the fundamentalist brigades will want to know where to send the re-education agents.
Userlevel 5
Badge +11
Not so much lazy to do anything about it. More of couldn't give a damn.
I can imagine a late night comedian shouting "Alexa order a pizza".
Lol. I had not thought of that. A friend could call and say this on the answering machine as well? The kind that those demanding Sonos passwords seem to have in plenty.
The minute they ran a telephone line into your house, they had the technology to eavesdrop. Just because a handset is on hook or your phone is "off", doesn't mean they couldn't listen in if they wanted too. The only thing that deters it somewhat are laws and corporate controls (which can always be circumvented...)
Perhaps so; but the technology to deploy algorithms and the like to convert hitherto unmanageable amounts of data into usable information wasn't always there. Personally, it doesn't bother me. Nothing I do will attract Hellfire targeting, but the fact that Google now controls what information I obtain in a search leaves me uneasy. I doubt that Google makes sure that only good things about her turn up when you search Hillary Clinton on Google, as Trump recently claimed, but for sure they have that capability; we just trust that it isn't used?
Userlevel 1
The product placement of an Amazon Echo in a recent Mr Robot episode was a little creepy - my own Echo picked up the Alexa requests and was replying with the same answers. So TV programs can now place "requests" in your own search history!

See for some more info
Userlevel 7
Badge +22
Yea that's what I mentioned above. I have had tv wake up my echo several times. Think about it. You leave your tv unattended. A commercial has family walk in their house and say "Alexa add Tide to my shopping list". Guess what next time I go to grocery store Tide is going to be mysteriously on my shopping list. For privacy sake they will eventually need some more customizable key words. I think right now alexa has 3 to chose from. I hate the "Hey Google" with the new Google home.
I would like them to create a "key phrase" to tell my machines that they are hearing a commercial, and not my own voice. I get tired of my devices "responding" to commercials.

So, I'll be complaining to them. I don't expect Amazon to be reading Sonos boards 🙂