An Alexa Holdout wants to know who is listening



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Amazon's terms of use explain that "Alexa transmits audio to the cloud," but not all the time, only "when you interact." Then, "Amazon processes and retains your Alexa Interactions, such as your voice entries, music playlists, and your Alexa to-do and shopping lists."

In general, I'm a man with few "tickets". voice ", but I'm not sure I want to send any of them to Amazon servers. Amazon says you can delete your records, but warns that "deleting voice recordings can degrade your Alexa experience" because Alexa learns knowing your voice inputs.

In Google, "Conversation history with Google Home and Google" The wizard is saved until you choose to delete it, says the company, adding that "Google Home records what it says" during the interactions and sends that recording to the Google servers "to fulfill your order." Recordings can be deleted at any time, the company says.

Those safeguards seem secure, but last month, it was discovered that some Google Home Mini units recorded conversations all the time. time, not only when users interacted with them, and during the summer, a hacker demonstrated that an Echo could effectively become a wiretap, although that required physical contact with the device. Devices at risk of remote piracy Companies have said they have addressed these problems.

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Jens Mortensen for The New York Times

Still, in some cases, devices can be triggered by mistake. Amazon also says that "information can be stored on servers outside the country where you live." And then there's Amazon Echo Look, the fashion badistant connected to the cloud that has the additional component of shared images.

In a statement, Amazon said: "We have built several layers of privacy protection in Echo, including a mute button that electronically disconnects the microphones, clear visual indicators when capturing and transmitting voice recordings, as well as the ability of customers to view and delete the voice recording history for their devices. "

In its own statement, Google said that "all devices that come with the built-in Google Assistant are designed with privacy in mind." He added that "Google only stores voice-based queries" after it is manually activated or recognizes "the keywords" OK Google & # 39; or & # 39; Hey Google. & # 39; "

I asked Joel Wallenstrom, the CEO of Wickr, a courier company focused on security, what he thought of the increase in digital badistants, he does not have one, although he pointed out that we already have this type of technology "under Siri."

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"There are many ways to have privacy and security, it only requires a lot of human supervision and management, and that usually does not happen," he said. With a digital badistant, he added, "you should be constantly alert for updates and changes to your privacy policy."

I have spent a lot of time interacting with talking computers. When I recently moved from London to New Jersey, my new American phone was synchronized with my old British phone, including Google Maps. Now I spend the weekends being dominated by the voice of a relentless British woman who seems incredibly confident about the back roads of the suburbs of New Jersey. We get along well. But she is not recording my complaints about traffic and sending them to the cloud.

At least I can console myself that I'm not the only one wondering about these things. In the last three years, the Better Business Bureau told me that it had received 9,876 complaints about Amazon.com. Seventy-nine related to speaker Echo, who introduced Alexa, and only one of those complaints mentioned privacy concerns.

The official identified the only dissident as "Dennis W" in Mbadachusetts, who told them he had bought an Echo because he thought "it would be good for a source of information (news, weather, sports)" but "after an investigation Further I found that this device is an unwanted privacy concern where Amazon collects and sells information. "

When he tried to return his echo, Amazon tried to calm his fears. "I do not believe them," he said.

So that's it, I'm not the only one worried. There is the other boy.

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