A reminder for those who work at home: you may want to turn off your Amazon or Google smart home speaker, or at least mute the microphone.
What most people forget is that Alexa and the Google Assistant are always listening. Sure, they only come to life when you say “Alexa” or “Hey, Google,” but what happens when you put those words in the middle of sentences?
You will be recorded.
Amazon and Google record every interaction, even if you don’t ask a specific question, and the recordings are stored on Amazon and Google servers. (You have the option to go in and out Deleting the recordings later.)
Sometimes the speakers are woken up with words that they confuse with the wake-up words. According to a recent study by Northeastern University, affiliated speakers have been active many times due to these mistakes. The university found that words that rhymed with “k” and sounded like Alexa, like “exclamation”, would wake the speaker up and begin recording.
The great thing about an Amazon Echo or Google Home speaker in your home is that you can use your voice to play the radio, turn intelligent lights on and off, control the TV, and more.
Snoop:They are not, they are: Google, Alexa and Siri may answer even if you have not called
Monitor:Hey Google and Alexa, how easy is it to take control?
Now you are at home at work, dealing with confidential information that your employer may not want to record from Google and Amazon.
You could say something harmless like “Hey Google, turn off the lights” or “Alexa, what time is it?” And there is no problem.
The problem is what happens when you insert the wake-up words into a normal conversation. Then you will be accepted. Snippets are sent directly to Google and Amazon.
Imagine you say something like “Amazon and Alexa have decimated our company, now we’re broke and don’t know what to do.” Or use the same or a similar expression and replace Alexa for Google.
(For example, we took this Monday and the recording is now saved by Amazon.)
“We may be a little paranoid, but we have to have a lot of trust in these organizations and these devices,” Mishcon de Reya partner Joe Hancock told Bloomberg. “We prefer not to take these risks.”
Bret Kinsella, editor of the Voicebot.ai website, considers sniffing concerns to be “over the top”.
Amazon and Google are “not interested in mining data from you about what you are talking about at home. People are trying to find a way to get outraged about it, but it’s just a false alarm problem. The snippets are not going anywhere . “
There are four ways to be on the safe side, says Kinsella:
• Let the Amazon and Google speakers play music for you.
• Mute the microphones. Concentrate on your work, and if you need to listen to music, wear some headsets and turn off the microphones. It is a simple switch.
• Simply pull the plug out of the socket.
• Change the wake-up word. Amazon has three options: Alexa, Amazon or computer. Google doesn’t have that many options: just “OK, Google” or “Hey, Google”.
Follow USA TODAY’s Jefferson Graham (@jeffersongraham) on Twitter