Amazon’s Alexa is moving forward with its push to expand into earbuds and ‘more intelligent’ smart speakers. However, critics are casting a shadow on Amazon’s annual product launch over privacy concerns.
Amazon has thus far dominated the smart speaker market. With Apple’s Siri and Google Assistant lagging behind Alexa’s market dominance, Echo devices have proven to be incredibly successful. Out of the 76M smart speakers in American homes and business, some 70% are Echo devices.
Now, Amazon plans to unveil a new line of Alexa products in Seattle on Wednesday. Yet, it facing some pushback from privacy advocates who claim that the company is mining data and mishandling sensitive information.
Amazon Under Fire for Privacy
Does Alexa store what it is recording? According to Amazon, it does not, but the reality paints an altogether murkier picture.
It was recently reported in April that human reviewers at Amazon’s Alexa branch are tasked with listening to garbled recordings to better calibrate the AI. This means that individual recordings were taken without permission, some of which were of a child screaming and a woman singing in the shower.
Alexa is expected to go into earbuds and maybe even a robot 👀 https://t.co/ZN1eEkHAMC
— CNET (@CNET) September 22, 2019
However, this is just the tip of the iceberg. There have already been hacks of Google Assistant, leaking thousands of private recordings to the public. Some breaches of privacy due to these ‘smart speakers’ are far more insidious, however. This past July, it was revealed that Apple contractors routinely listened to recordings on Siri which included doctor-patient discussions and sex.
So, can Alexa definitely prove itself to be better than Google Assistant or Siri? Although Amazon claims that the number of Alexa recordings being ‘reviewed’ is less than 1%, that is still a significant breach of public trust—and could increase without us even knowing.
Alexa Looks to the Future Despite Critics
In response to these critics, Amazon has been doubling-down on Alexa which has proven to be among its most successful product lines. There are even talks of Alexa registering user’s emotions, facial recognition, and location tracking. At the forthcoming Seattle conference, we can likely expect some more information all three of these Alexa expansions.
The truth is, however, that those who criticize privacy are likely not using Amazon’s Alexa anyway—and those who are using it now likely won’t stop due to some more privacy concerns. So, Amazon seems to believe it is in the position to simply ignore critics. This may prove costly in the long-run for all of our sake.
Do you trust Amazon’s Alexa to respect our privacy? Let us know your thoughts in the comments down below.
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