Amazon Echo, Who Is Listening?

Amazon announced a new toy today, the Echo, and it looks like an interesting product. It’s a combination of Siri (or Google Now, or Cortana) where you verbally ask questions and it will respond, and a voice activated media server. Though as interesting as the product is as a concept, upon reading the announcement, my immediate thoughts went to an article published last week by Michael Price for Salon magazine. The article details Price’s fears concerning his new Smart TV, specifically his fear that the device is sending all his conversations back to the manufacturer’s servers.

More troubling is the microphone. The TV boasts a “voice recognition” feature that allows viewers to control the screen with voice commands. But the service comes with a rather ominous warning: “Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party.” Got that? Don’t say personal or sensitive stuff in front of the TV.

I poked around on the Amazon site for privacy information regarding the Echo to see if it presented the same sort of issue, but all I could find was their standard terms of service and privacy notice. Neither mentioned Echo and that lack of information is troubling. An always on, internet conected device that is recording your voice warrants some special type of notice which Amazon does not appear to have–at least not yet. I bet this is going to be a problem for Amazon. This is worth watching.

 
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