Authorities have requested access to voice recordings stored in Amazon’s cloud based servers that were collected by Amazon’s Echo device that could aid in the investigation of the murder of an Arkansas man.
This news is sparking privacy concerns for those weary of a device that is constantly recording what it hears.
In order to work, the Amazon Echo is always recording, listening for vocal key-phrases that elicit a response. Once a user says a keyword like “Alexa”, the device transmits voice data to Amazon’s servers in order to calculate a response.
Ryan O’Leary, VP of White Hat Security discussed the security concerns with the Associated Press and explained that the Echo “has to listen to everything” and that this can be “kind of disturbing”.
“It doesn’t capture voice until it hears a keyword, but it could. You’re trusting the devices to not do that, but it’s entirely possible.”
Asked whether or not people should be concerned with this news, O’Leary said, “People say you shouldn’t be concerned if you’re not doing anything wrong, but that’s a dangerous precedent to set.”
A precedent that could mean devices in almost every American home with the ability to transmit voice data to companies who secretly backdoor that information the government.
Voice-enabled technology is not new or unique to Amazon as Apple, Google and Samsung have launched similar products which work in similar ways. The emergence of these tech giants in this market means recording devices in every home seems almost inevitable. We are coming to an age in technology where gadgets will be constantly taking in data and companies will then use that data in ways that are completely unknown to the customer.
According to James Plouffe, a security expert at MobileIron, “Connected microphones are starting to appear in everything from cars to children’s toys. Consumers should think carefully about how comfortable they are with the prospect of a live mic in common household items”.
What’s even more shocking is the news that this information has the potential to “live forever” online, as Amazon reports to use the information gathered by these devices to improve their technology.
People are going to have to make concessions to their privacy rights if they want to enjoy the next wave of technology that these tech giants have to offer. This time it seems the culprit of invasive privacy concerns is not the government, but the free market.
At least consumers can make these decisions voluntarily as they weigh the risks of letting devices in their homes that are constantly recording them.