Not paranoid enough yet? Consider what data your smart speaker is actually collecting

Consider this scenario: Billions of people are duped into carrying an electronic tracking device wherever they go. The device is incredibly useful and fun, an attribute that masks the fact it is constantly connecting data on you and sending data back to someone or something that will use that information against you.

If that wasn’t enough, millions more voluntarily install new appliances in all areas of their homes with screen, cameras, and microphones. Again, these devices are fun and useful, but what else are they doing? Watching? Listening? Spying?

Oh, we love our smart speakers. Google Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa units, Apple’s HomePod, and whatever screen hardware thing Facebook is pushing, move tens of millions of units per quarter. What could possibly go wrong?

Smart speakers are always “on” because they’re listening for its “wake word” (“Ok Google” or “Alexa” or “Siri,” etc.) Sometimes a random series of words will wake up the device, resulting in it getting confused and responding with something weird. When working properly, a smart speaker records and remembers what is said after the wake word is spoken. This helps the device create routines for the user. Information is also transmitted to developments to improve overall functionality.

Some smart speakers use third-party developers outside the manufacturer. And this is where the paranoia should kick in.

If one of these third parties is hacked–or if the third party is unscrupulous–you could end up with eavesdropping and information theft. For example, Alexa speakers are great for buying stuff. If the appropriate precautions are not taken, it’s theoretically possible for someone to conduct transactions (i.e. buy stuff on your credit card) by using your Alexa device.

What’s the best solution? Probably two-step verification, also known as two-factor authorization. And is it time for a VPN? https://vpnoverview.com/

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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