Amazon has been aggressively partnering with companies to allow the use of their voice-controlled technology in countless products. After developing the Echo hub, shopping giant Amazon’s willingness to work with outside tech brands that could integrate Alexa compatibility—and a nearly two-year head start over the competition—helped propel it ahead of Siri and Google. For comparison, Amazon has more than 20,000 devices, while Google has more than 5,000 and Apple has about 200.
By some estimates, more than half the homes in the U.S. will have a voice-enabled smart speaker by 2022. As with any technology, there are privacy concerns.
“The devices are listening all the time,” says Candid Wueest, a principal threat researcher with Symantec. “Once the speaker hears the hot words, like ‘Hey, Alexa’ or ‘OK, Google,’ whatever you ask it is recorded and stored on a server.”
Typically, a light on the speaker indicates it’s recording you. While tech companies, likely, have no interest in eavesdropping, there have been reported instances when the speakers have inadvertently recorded conversations when they incorrectly heard the hot words. While your queries are encrypted, why keep them on a server? Partly to help the device’s AI better understand speech patterns, but also to help the companies gather data about you. If you are concerned, you can mute the speakers before sensitive conversations and frequently go into the app to delete the history of your queries. Another good idea is to think twice before you authorize the devices to make purchases. Nobody wants their kids “accidentally” ordering a million candy bars.
We’ve put together some of the new supercool ways to control your home using the sound of your voice (along with one simple hub). Here are our favorites of 2018/2019.