Alexa. Are You Listening?

from Issue 5


lexa has recently been under heat for issues concerning privacy, but is it really as bad as people suggest? Well, sort of. Amazon has made it clear that what you say to Alexa is recorded, and a very, very few amount of those recordings are looked a by researchers to help improve Alexa’s software and make it more user-friendly. This has freaked some people out, but you can delete your Alexa history. There is also the problem of Alexa turning on when you do not want it to, and recording things better left unknown. But is it really so much worse than what we do on our phones and computers?

Jake Williams, who is the founder and president of cybersecurity firm Rendition Infosec, and previously a hacker at the National Security Agency for the Department of Defense, explains, “Unlike your laptop — where you install software and you run a lot of complicated programs there, and you have a web browser that has to interpret Javascript and HTML and Flash and ridiculous amounts of processing — … if you think about your Echo or your always-on assistant, it really only takes input from two places. It takes [in] you, with your voice, and then it’s a stream coming back from the server [at the company.]”

So, maybe our concern should be more with our computers than Alexa, though any breach of privacy is too much. This is quite strange considering the world we live in now where people post photos of themselves for everyone to see, and allow powerful tech companies to steal their information. As technology progresses, we will see more and more issues developed through the capability of our devices. So maybe it is time to put down the phone and take a walk to the park, before that is recorded as well.