Why I don’t do “smart speakers”

Why I don’t do “smart speakers”

It seems like every other day, there’s a new story about a “smart home” device being hacked, attacked or giving away your data. Yet, people still keep buying these devices and putting them in their homes.

They are certainly convenient. Being able to say “Hey Siri, play Andrew Bird” or “Alexa, what’s the weather?” does have a Jetsons feel to it.

Every time I’m asked, I tell people not to keep these devices in their homes. As I explained on By Any Means Necessary on Radio Sputnik last week, the proliferation of these “smart” devices puts your privacy at risk.

Amazon in particular has a bad track record here. The company is more than happy to comply with law enforcement requests for their your data. In the first half of 2020, according to Wired, law enforcement requests (subpoenas, search warrants and “other”) have risen significantly. For the first time, the total number of requests reached over 3,000 for the 6-month period.

All of the smart devices work by constantly listening for the trigger word: Alexa, Hey Siri, Hey Cortana, OK Google, and so on. Their microphones are always on, but they don’t start recording until they hear those words. Unfortunately, researchers recently found that there are over 1,000 phrases that can trip those devices up and make them start listening – and recording.

Amazon, Apple and Google all have in the past – and some still do unless you change privacy settings – send a selection of recordings to humans for review. The companies say these were anonymized, but in some cases they contained location data – which could pinpoint the recording to someone’s home.

I won’t even get into how Facebook sells the Portal, with a camera built in. Why anyone trusts a Facebook-controlled camera in their home is beyond me.

There’s enough tracking in our lives. Cell phones constantly monitor our locations & communications. We should, in our homes, be able to have the peace of mind of knowing our private conversations aren’t being recorded.

In other words, Google Home doesn’t know how to respond when you say “stop tracking me” – so it and its kin should stay out of your home.