Smart speakers, should we be paranoid about them?

13.11.2018 704 0

Smart speakers have arrived. They come in different shapes and sizes and from well-known brands like Amazon, Google, and Apple. Rumor has it, Facebook will soon join the pack. The speakers look exceptional and some come at a bargaining price. We will all be able to benefit the hands-free control and complete our task more efficiently. True, but this all comes at a cost – our privacy!

First of all, all of the smart speakers rely on a trigger word like “Alexa”, “OK, Google” and “Hey Siri”. That means that they are always listening. When you are working from home, when you are having a conversation with your family and so on. Sounds creepy, doesn’t it? The companies claim they don’t record single thing and only get active when indicated by the user, but a recent scandal with Alexa (Amazon) proved this is not the case. The Amazon smart speaker received a command to record an audio and send it to a random contact without the instructions from the user. It interpreted some background noise incorrectly. Without a doubt, it can happen again. You don’t want a device to be sending random bits of possibly private conversations in the form of audio files to random contacts.

All of the smart speakers collect data to “improve” the quality of the service. They do so to create a more detailed profile of every user. They learn your daily routine and know exactly how and when to bombard you with an advertisement. The worse thing is that you can’t really opt-out. They will collect data, no matter what. For the companies producing the devices, the smart speaker is two things. One, the best spy they can ever dream of, and two – a convenient marketplace at your home. They can easily sell you products on the spot.

Hackers might want to get involved too. The smart speakers are just computers with more attention to the microphones and sound quality than the security. A cybercriminal can hack the speaker, and listen to everything that’s happening at your home. They can easily go one step further and get your data. They can sell it, buy products using your identity or use your credit card information to steal your money! Just like the IoT, smart speakers are still not perfect in terms of digital security.

The last point we want to make is that smart speakers can be fooled. People who have a similar voice to yours can trick the devices. They can interact and see everything you have shared with it. In fact, some cheaper speakers can even be activated by an audio recording of your voice.

So, the big question, should you be paranoid about the smart speakers? At this point of time, yes! In the future, still yes! The devices, for sure, can improve in term of security and lower the risks of exposing your data to outsiders, yet they will collect data and use, sell it to other companies. If you value your privacy, don’t buy a smart speaker ever!

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