A leading tech investor has warned that companies such as Amazon and Google are using smart speakers for surveillance purposes.
In an interview with Yahoo News, John Borthwick,of Betaworks said that the information recorded by the devices and relayed back to the host companies cannot be described any other way.
“I would say that there’s two or three layers sort of problematic layers with these new smart speakers, smart earphones that are in market now,” Borthwick noted.
“And so the first is, from a consumer standpoint, user standpoint, is that these, these devices are being used for what’s — it’s hard to call it anything but surveillance,” Borthwick added.
“I personally believe that you, as a user and as somebody who likes technology, who wants to use technology, that you should have far more rights about your data usage than we have today,” Borthwick, a former Time Warner and AOL executive, also said.
Alexa, are you spying on me?
Alexa: *coughs* No, of course not.
— Wrong, Brian (@leonidasmoderus) May 25, 2018
Reports have also suggested that Google employees are listening to users’ voice commandsfor Google Assistant, with Facebook doing the same via the Messenger app.
Following the revelations all the companies have all said they have either stopped the practice or will automatically opt users out of voice sample collection.
This technology has led some people to draw comparisons to George Orwell’s 1984, and a quote from the book illustrates creepy similarities.
“The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it; moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard.”
Facebook recently announced the rollout of its new ‘Portal’ smart speakers, which it brags have a camera that can automatically follow users around the room.
— Facebook (@facebook) October 8, 2018
Undoubtedly wary about fears the technology could be exploited to spy on its users following the company’s data abuse scandals, Facebook has even included a camera cover that can be slipped over the lens.
No thanks, big brother
— ColdClaw22 (@ColdClaw22) October 8, 2018
From the company that sold your phone number to advertisers.
— Torch (@torchatlas) October 8, 2018
Security researchers have also discovered flaws in the technology that could allow unwanted eavesdroppers to hack into the devices.