Prying 24/7 – Amazon’s Virtual Assistant Alexa Raises Privacy Concerns

Amazon’s new virtual assistant Alexa has proved its mettle when it comes to efficiency, however, at the same time, it has also raised a handful of privacy concerns.

Amazon Echo and Alexa were introduced into the market back in November 2016. The arrival of the new product has been a great game changer for Amazon.

Unintentional Purchases

Apart from the efficiency of the device, the major problem people are facing is the concern of being hacked through it. Another problem that has aroused is that the device may accidentally order things online by having conversation with children.

Echo Dot is a voice enabled device that acts as a virtual assistant for Amazon. The device is plugged into a wall and can be mounted anywhere as it waits for commands. The device can be turned on by a simple wake word, Alexa.

A funny incident happened when Alexa had a chat with a four year old kid. Miles, the four year old asked Alexa a question and it got lost in translation. As a result, Alexa interpreted the question as a request for lighting appliances. So, it suggested Miles to buy a wireless plug for a light. Alexa asked for the confirmation of the order to which Miles responded, “ok”.

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Mile’s father, Popil stated:

“I was at work Tuesday. Christmas was the previous Sunday and there was a shipping confirmation in our Amazon account. I talked to my wife, she had no idea what it was, I had no idea what it was, so we went home and looked at Amazon”

Order restrictions can be applied to the device for people who have children in their home. Moreover, another restriction can be the fear that children might accidentally order something online. Besides that, the device lights up when it is listening and there is a physical button on the device in order to mute it. Furthermore, there are several other ways to turn off the device when not in use.

For homes with young children and toddlers, parents may anyways want to reconsider having Alexa device. To fully understand the implications, may be interesting to share another slightly different incident of Alexa responding to a toddler. The video has gone viral over social media, and has NSFW audio.

Alex Listens To You 24/7

FOX19 NOW’s tech expert Dave Hatter told that the device is listening to you all the time. He said that if he has the chance to set up Amazon’s Echo in his house, he would choose not to. Alexa and other voice controlled devices have raised many privacy concerns as the device listens to you all the time. There have been certain misunderstanding issues due to the device and also some serious privacy issues.

A team of investigators in Arkansas has also tried to use their search warrant in order to get audio data about the suspect through his Echo device. Speaking about the device, Hatter commented:

“Folks are buying the thing without understanding all the potential implications, some of which may not be good. My bigger concern is can it be hacked. What’s happening to everything when you haven’t said Alexa, does it store it for a long time? What’s the security of that storage?”           

Amazon responded that the device is hack proof and the data is encrypted before it is stored.

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After listening to the recording between Alexa and Miles, the father of the child said:

“When we heard it, it was hilarious although a little scary, that he could just go on there and order it. That was a learning experience for everybody”

Even though Amazon has told users that the data is stored after encryption, it has not revealed the duration for which the data is stored on the servers. Additionally, they are yet to inform whether this information will be sold to some third party or not.

Source: FOX19

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