What do all those talking speakers have in common? Well, they respond to queries. They play music. They take action and do something (sometimes). What else? All of them have microphones that can be used to spy on customers and users.
Apple embraced privacy a few years ago, back when it was not yet cool or even trending. The iPhone maker didn’t hesitate to pop a few of Amazon, Google, and Facebook balloons along the way, but karma being what it is, that stance as a privacy lover came back to bite the Apple a few times.
Still, when it comes to privacy, who do you trust more? Apple? Or, anyone else? Certainly not Amazon, Google, Facebook or any other company accused of abuse and monopolistic practices, amirite?
Now we learn that both Amazon and Google– with Echo and Alexa, and Home and Assistant– have been using those built-in microphones to capture sounds that were not uttered as part of a command. In fact, there are apps that can do the dastardly deeds, too. Give approval to the app to use a microphone, ask a question, and the app continues to listen and record whatever you say.
Amazon Echo and Google Home are the hardware– speakers. But talking speakers require microphones to get something acted upon, and that’s where dastardly deeds begin.
Microphones listen, and mics that listen can also record audio that may not be a direct Hey Siri… query.
Apple, Google, and Amazon have hired workers and contractors to listen to such recordings, ostensibly to ensure that their devices fully and accurately understood what was asked, and to ensure that the response matched the query.
Therein lies the rub.
Apple does not allow such apps on the App Store. See? A monopoly has benefits. Amazon and Google have allowed such voice sniffing apps because their policy is to tell the developer, “Don’t do that, please.”
Spies live in those talking speakers. Choose wisely which you but and which you use.