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Someone could be listening in

Amy Praskac - Tuesday, December 05, 2017

A voice command device (VCD) is a device controlled by the human voice. Consumers can operate appliances from across the room or while their hands are occupied doing other tasks if they do not have to touch buttons, dials, or switches. You can turn on the television or change the temperature on the thermostat using only your voice.

But have you traded your privacy for convenience?

Each VCD contains a web-connected microphone that listens for you to say specific words or phrases. When you say “Alexa” or “Siri” within range of the microphone, you activate a recording. The recording is transferred to an external server for analysis to answer your question or follow your instructions.

Anyone’s voice can activate the device—even a voice on television. Any use of the “wake words” can activate the recording whether instructing the device or used in ordinary conversation, thereby recording inadvertently.

Things you can do to mitigate unintended recordings and actions and to protect your privacy:

  • Mute the microphone manually.
  • Change the location of the microphone.
  • Change the settings on your account.
  • Delete your request history periodically.
  • Implement parental controls.
  • Strengthen the password for your account.
  • Turn on two-step verification.
  • Refrain from linking accounts to your device.

Source: Smart Speakers and Voice Recognition: Is Your Privacy at Risk? (HuffPost, April 14, 2017).

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