To date, more than 25% of homes in America have at least one smart device. Many of these are so-called voice assistants, or smart speakers.
Back in 2013, when these devices were first released to the public, the issue of privacy was an immediate concern. But at least for some, that concern has faded. This is due, perhaps, to many consumers’ inherent trust in the main smart speaker companies: Google, Apple, and Amazon. For others, it may not be trust so much as just wanting to have the latest thing, regardless of privacy.
- The fact that the speaker is always listening
- What happens to recorded requests and other data
We’ll discuss both of these privacy issues, and whether or not you and your personal information could be vulnerable.
The only way that smart speakers can function and respond to inquiries is for them to always be on and listening for questions and requests. This is the basic premise of smart speaker/voice assistant technology. The speaker waits to hear a trigger phrase from the right person. Then, it responds and works to get the needed information.
There is obviously appeal in simply getting Alexa’s, Siri’s or Google Assistant’s attention (by saying “Alexa,” “Hey, Siri,” or “Hey, Google), asking it a question, and getting a response while you’re in the middle of cooking or otherwise occupied. You can conduct online searches and informational queries without having to type anything or even be near a computer. It is quick. And it is convenient.
But this is also where discomfort starts for many. The idea of having a device always on and always waiting and listening is just not appealing; it feels like having a spy in the house. If this is where discomfort starts for you, then it’s probably pretty much a non-starter for you and smart speakers in general.
Smart Speaker Default Settings
If you can accept the basic functionality of a smart speaker, great. But there is still another privacy hurdle you may need to overcome. Out of the box, smart speakers are set to record and share the data they collect with Google, Apple, or Amazon. At times, there may be actual human beings on the other end working to collect and aggregate this data.
The upside, though, is that you ultimately have control over your smart speakers settings. You can turn off automatic voice recordings. You can plan to manually delete your search history and recordings on a regular basis. Or you can adjust the speaker settings to do that automatically on some set schedule.
How Your Data is Used
It is a data-driven world. Advertising, online shopping and content recommendations are all derived from your data, whether you’re on a computer, phone, or using a smart speaker.
The companies use the data to improve how their smart speakers work. And they also use the data much as with any online search, to anticipate users’ specific needs and make more educated recommendations based on user habits and queries.
In practice, this data collection is supposed to be useful to you (and yes, to the companies that collect it, too). But, if the idea is unappealing to you, you don’t have to merely accept it.
Other Smart Devices
The focus here is has been on smart speakers. But what about other devices you have that function similarly? Your cell phone, of course. Your smart TV, security system, or smart watch. Heck, even your smart refrigerator. All of these things have been designed to work together, and create a cohesive smart system throughout your home.
For users, the focus is again on accessibility and modernity. Just make sure that any device you add to your system functions with the level of privacy you want, as well as convenience.
Right now, your concerns about privacy may still outweigh your desire for internet surfing ease. But by knowing that you do have a certain level of control over your privacy, you may eventually find a voice assistant to be a comfortable fit in your home after all.
For more information about the latest technologies and privacy matters, be sure to read the PeopleFinders Blog.
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