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  • In 2013, Google announced it was adding something new to its Chrome browser:

  • Ok, Google. Show me things to do in Santa Cruz.

  • Here are popular attractions in Santa Cruz.

  • Voice recognition that you could activate by speaking a keyword.

  • In 2014, Apple updated its Siri function to work the same way.

  • Hey Siri, show me photos of tortellini.

  • Here are some images of tortellini.

  • Voice activation was a flashy new addition to these companies' existing browsers and phones.

  • But then, a few months later, Amazon released something simpler:

  • When it first arrived from Amazon, I didn't know what it was.

  • It's called "Amazon Echo."

  • It was a voice-activated speaker.

  • A product whose sole purpose was to interact with your voice.

  • And you can see in this video they made, that they had to convince people that it would be useful.

  • I can play music, answer questions, get the news and weather, create to-do lists and much more.

  • Awesome!

  • But it worked. Today, every 1 in 5 American households has a smart speaker.

  • Most are made by Amazon, Google, and Apple, and their technology doesn't just sit on tabletops anymore.

  • You can find Alexa in your ears; around your wrist, or just a finger.

  • She's even right in front of your eyeballs.

  • You can also find smart-speakers built into remote controls, security cameras, and doorbells.

  • Or in the form of an adorable tiger, so that it's easier for your kids to use.

  • And each Alexa product can reportedly process 100,000 different commands.

  • But all this convenience does come at the expense of some of our privacy.

  • So it's worth asking: What are we really giving up when we use one?

  • The first thing to understand is that smart speakers aren't actually that smart.

  • It probably seems maybe like there's a lot more going on than there is.

  • Sara Morrison covers personal data and privacy for Recode.

  • But essentially, um, it's a microphone that connects to the Internet.

  • When I ask it about the weather—"Alexa, what's the temperature?"—It's not the thing that finds the temperature.

  • It just records my question, sends that recording to an Amazon server, which analyzes it and finds the temperature.

  • Right now, it's 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • What seems like a genius digital helper, is really just a direct line to Amazon.

  • And while I soon forget my question, Amazon remembers it.

  • In my speaker's settings, I can see that my recordings are actually saved, until I delete them. So….

  • Unless you set it somehow differently, it will pretty much stay on their servers indefinitely.

  • According to a recent survey, almost half of smart-speaker owners incorrectly believed their audio was only saved temporarily or not at all.

  • And 47% thought it was unacceptable.

  • And then there's the question of what they do with those recordings.

  • Does anyone else hear my question?

  • I think most people don't really know that they do send that recording to a server, that humans might listen to your recording,

  • which sounds kind of creepy, but it's really for accuracy purposes, to make sure that they're responding to the right things.

  • But obviously, if you don't know that that's a possibility that can happen, you might not really like that.

  • In fact, 31% didn't like that.

  • We give them a lot of this data, we expose a ton of our information to them, and I mean, I don't know, ultimately, what they're using it for, and neither do you.

  • One thing we can assume they're using our voice data for is some form of ad targeting.

  • Google says it doesn't use the recordings themselves, but may use a text read-out of your recording to show you personalized ads.

  • Amazon has been more vague. It says it doesn't use your data to target ads, but that it may use it on Amazon.com, which of course is powered not by ads, but by sophisticated product recommendations.

  • What's clear, though, is that they feel very confident about how valuable our voice data could be.

  • That's why they're adding smart-speaker technology to so many different products, so that they can collect more.

  • It's also partly why smart-speakers are so cheap; as little as 10 bucks in the US, because the real price is our data.

  • There's a longer-term thing that some privacy experts have sort of brought up to me,

  • which is, you know, the more common they are, the more comfortable we get with them in every aspect of our lives,

  • the more comfortable we kind of maybe get with there being things that take data, and information exposure all around our lives.

  • In 2019, Amazon announced its new "Sidewalk" feature.

  • When implemented, it will connect your smart speaker with others in your vicinity, like the ones in your neighbor's homes.

  • But you wouldn't know that unless you checked your settings.

  • It's an opt out, not an opt in.

  • When something's opt-out, it means that they want as many people as possible to sort of be doing it.

  • Thanks to public pressure, tech companies have made it easier to opt-out of some data-sharing features.

  • On Amazon products, you can set your recordings to automatically delete, and prevent Amazon from using your recordings to train its system.

  • Google has an option to turn off ad personalizations.

  • The reason that they have done that is because they've kinda gotten in trouble. Or people have found them doing things that they didn't know about and got upset.

  • Always makes you wonder, what is the thing we're going to catch them doing later that they're doing right now?

  • The huge popularity of smart-speakers shows that we've already entered a new wave of technology, made by companies whose goal is to learn everything they can about us.

  • And what they might do with that information is still a mystery.

In 2013, Google announced it was adding something new to its Chrome browser:

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The real cost of smart speakers

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/12/28
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