What’s Wrong with Amazon Echo Privacy?
Intelligent speaker systems can make everyday life more comfortable, but they also create privacy problems.
Recently, an Amazon Echo smart speaker belonging to an American family recorded a home conversation and sent the recording to one of their contacts. After the recipient informed the family members about the incident, they turned off all Alexa devices in their home and contacted Amazon.
Previously, we’ve written about a new hacker feature that helps thieves to rob your house. Here are the details.
Amazon Echo’s privacy issue
The issue with Amazon Echo and the Alexa voice assistant is not only about the amount of information collected or the fact that Amazon has allowed contractors from all over the world to listen to private recordings; it is that these devices are subject to data leakage risks.
These risks include not only interactions with Amazon but also with its Alexa assistants. In addition, Echo interacts with other services, thereby creating additional dangers of data leakage, including monitoring and control.
When configured, Echo turns Amazon into an additional gateway through which all information passes and data is collected. As a result, the Alexa assistant knows almost everything about users: what they search for, listen to, or send in private messages.
Echo combines all the negative features of smartphones and smart homes. However, this is not just a user’s private device. Instead, this is a device that integrates into the habitat for service and control.
Some Echo devices already have cameras. In addition, the possibility of integrating facial recognition features is being discussed. If such a feature is added, Echo will monitor us around the clock and everywhere, even in the most private spaces, and track us when we move between locations.
By the way, Amazon has a huge advantage over global technology giants like Apple and Google because the former already has control over all the necessary data. And the latter, unfortunately, still face their own data privacy problems.
In addition, Amazon’s systems are designed to collect as much data as possible and create ways to exchange it. So, the potential problems are much more profound than Alexa listening to personal data.
How can you stop internet tracking? Read the article to know the answer.
Sharing data with law enforcement agencies
One of the key problems of such devices is the possibility of wiretapping by law enforcement agencies in our homes, schools, and workplaces. It is known that Apple quite often refuses the FBI requests for user data. Twitter, on the contrary, has a more transparent system of relations with the government.
The most resonant example in this regard is a company called Ring, which connects video surveillance cameras to the internet and is owned by Amazon. In almost 100% of cases, Ring cooperates with the police and state authorities to provide user data.
Such methods of work can lead to a culture of total state control, which carries alarming consequences.
Thousands of times, there have been cases when law enforcement and other state bodies in democratic countries used personal data to spy on people, both in violation of the law and within it.
In response to the publicized problem related to the disclosure of user data, an Amazon representative said:
“Amazon does not disclose customer information in response to government requirements unless we are required to do so under a legally valid and blind order. Amazon objects to excessive or otherwise inappropriate requirements as a matter of course.”
Tracking health problems
The UK National Health Service (NHS) has signed an agreement to provide medical advice provided through Echo. This way, Amazon can start tracking what medical information we request through Alexa, effectively creating users’ medical history profiles.
Such actions may be associated with a subsequent chain of targeted advertising that offers ads about expensive treatment methods or even potentially traumatic ads (for example, women who have suffered a miscarriage being shown baby products.)
Such failures in advertising algorithms can violate professional standards and the moral component of the public health work.
Unfortunately, Amazon lacks transparency in working with users. Few users really understand what risks exist when using Amazon. When new privacy features appear, users learn this from the press and not from the company itself.
But what should you do if you already have an Echo at home? There are many tips available on how to make your device more private — for example, setting up voice recording to automatically delete or restrict what data is transmitted to third parties.
But smart technologies are almost always surveillance technologies, and the best advice is not to bring them into your home.
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