Your Smart Device Might Be Listening

April 15, 2018

Google and Amazon, tech giants and the leading sellers of digital assistants, have filed patent applications to collect data from millions of smart devices. The New York Times reports that the companies both “filed patent applications that outline an array of possibilities of how devices like these could monitor more of what users say and do.”

The patent applications lay out plans to use complex algorithms which comb the air for keywords. The data is then used by Amazon or Google to advertise more specifically to each consumer. Amazon’s patent included a “voice sniffer algorithm,” that can recognize keywords like “love” or “hate” from voices in range of Amazon devices.

Amazon and Google raise a greater concern about all internet-connected devices. If this technology is permitted for use in the Amazon Echo or Google Home, it can be repurposed to a smartphone or tablet.

Digital assistants as an industry emerged five years ago and has grown into a commonplace technology in homes across the United States. With new technology comes an inevitable frenzy that must be restricted to protect consumers and the fate of all internet-connected devices.

“The Electronic Privacy Information Center has recommended more robust disclosure rules for internet-connected devices, including and ‘algorithmic transparency requirement’ that would help people understand how their data was being used and what automated decisions were being made about them,” the N.Y. Times reports.

Facebook, Sony, and countless other companies have suffered catastrophic data breaches of personal information. As businesses plan to mine for more data from homes and pockets, users and regulators must consider which lines of informational privacy should not be crossed.

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