Smart speakers can record you even when they're not in use



TAMPA, Florida – The convenience of smart speakers – such as Amazon's Echo, Google Home and Apple's HomePod – could have a cost to your privacy and these popular technology tools can register you even when you do not have them. do not use, the I-Team discovery.

Justin McDonald told Team Investigator I, Adam Walser, that he liked his Amazon Echo. With simple controls, McDonald controls his ceiling fan, thermostat and smart TV without leaving his sofa.

"I think I have between 10 and 12 devices connected to the Internet," said McDonald, who regularly interviews Amazon's "Alexa" virtual assistant about news, weather, and stock market reports. "It has made its way into our morning routines."

He even has an extra echo in his son's room.

When asked what Alexa knew about him, McDonald, a resident of Manatee County, said, "More than I would like to know, probably.

The I-Team asked Justin McDonald to listen to his own audio data on Amazon, accessible via the Amazon Privacy Dashboard.

Alexa saved wandering records

McDonald not only saw the queries he sent to Alexa, but also discovered dozens of other audio clips that should not have been recorded.

"That's what worries me a bit:" The text is not available – the audio is not meant for Alexa, "said McDonald, pointing the message on the screen of his laptop.

I-Team's review of McDonald's errant records lasted less than a second and contained little readable information.

Adam Walser, the investigator of the I-Team, has contacted Amazon about the erroneous recordings. The company said the records were probably generated by something that looked like "Alexa", the word that triggers the recording of the device.

An Amazon spokesperson said users could at any time delete the audio files stored on their servers via the privacy dashboard. They also suggested that users set up their Echo device on "Amazon Echo" or "computer" – instead of "Alexa" – to eliminate some of these errant records.

Smart speakers always on the lookout

But Gus Dimitrelos, a retired US secret service special agent who is now working as a cyber security consultant, said changing the name of your Amazon Echo will not protect your privacy.

He compares these devices to allow a stranger to enter your home and listen to your private conversations.

"If you allow this device to monitor your business in the privacy of your home, you expose yourself to yourself," said Dimitrelos.

Dimitrelos said that many users often give technology companies this full authorization when signing service contracts – without even thinking about it.

"Whether Microsoft, Google or Apple – you agree to store your data on their servers," Dimitrelos said. "In these cases, when audio recorders are at your home, you allow them to monitor your voice at any time.

And the government is asking more and more for these voice recordings.

Feds asking for more user data

Local and federal law enforcement agencies – including the FBI – searched for data from nearly 700,000 user accounts in just one year, according to "transparency reports" published twice a year by large corporations. technology.

See the latest transparency reports:

The NSA also made thousands of additional requests for user information during this period, and an I-Team study found that high-tech companies had transmitted the information requested by local and federal agencies in more than two countries. third of these cases.

In November, a New Hampshire judge ordered Amazon to return recordings of smart recorders in a house where two women were murdered.

"I think most people probably do not even realize that Alexa takes into account what's going on in your home, besides responding to your requests," said the University of New Hampshire law professor, Albert Scherr, at the time of the investigation.

The demand for smart speakers is on the rise. Amazon, Google and Apple have sold hundreds of millions of these devices in recent years.

The I-Team has contacted Google and Apple to explain how users are registered on smart speakers.

In a statement, a Google spokesman said: "All devices provided with the Google Assistant are designed with respect for privacy."

"Google only stores incoming voice requests immediately after the" OK Google "or" Hey Google "keyword recognition. "The detection of hot words is located on the Google Home device via a short snippet of microphone data.If the keyword is not detected on this short snippet, the snippet is immediately deleted.If the word key is recognized, the data, including the contents of the query, are sent to Google's servers for analysis and storage in the personal activity history. "

A company spokesman for Apple said its smart speakers should only record with the phrase "Hey Siri" and that data is protected on its cloud servers by end-to-end encryption and not associated with your Apple ID, but a random ID.

You can upload your own data from large technology companies to see exactly what they collect and store:

If you have a story about which the I-Team needs to investigate, send them an email.

[email protected]


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