Originally published August 13 2015
Amazon lies to customers, says Echo device doesn't eavesdrop...but is always listening for the right word
by J. D. Heyes
(NaturalNews) In so many ways in the Information Age, Americans are powerless to thwart violations of privacy. Be it consumer companies, retail firms, or the federal government, it seems like our personal data is now an open book.
But in many ways Americans invite invasions of privacy too, such as when we join social media networks like Facebook, Google+ and others that routinely harvest our data. It is almost laughable today to hear many of these social platforms deny that they are collecting every ounce of data on us they possibly can, given the overwhelming evidence that they do.
As I have written before, I do utilize some social media - I have a blog site and Google+ site I use to share my views and market NaturalNews stories (we are, after all, a web-based news site).
But when offered new products that are essentially Internet-connected spying machines, I pass - and so should you.
Take Amazon's "amazing" new Echo device. It is always "listening" for a command; and since it's connected to the "Internet of things," it is susceptible to third-party monitoring and hacking.
"I guess there is a difference between deciding to share something and having something captured"More and more people are beginning to realize this, like Aanya Nigam of Issaquah, Wash.
As reported by The Associated Press, Nigam, 16, is like most young adults her age: Hooked on social media. She constantly is sharing thoughts, photos and other details of her daily life on Twitter, Instagram and other social media.
She and mother bought an Echo, but recently she began to get paranoid about the device that is always listening for the command "Alexa," in order to "activate."
...Aanya's care-free attitude dissolved into paranoia a few months ago shortly after her mother bought Amazon's Echo, a digital assistant that can be set up in a home or office to listen for various requests, such as for a song, a sports score, the weather, or even a book to be read aloud.
After using the Internet-connected device for two months, Aanya...started to worry that the Echo was eavesdropping on conversations in her...living room. So she unplugged the device and hid it in a place that her mother, Anjana Agarwal, still hasn't been able to find.
"I guess there is a difference between deciding to share something and having something captured by something that you don't know when it's listening," the mother said of her daughter's concerns.
Echo, which sells for about $180, is a cylindrical device that started shipping in July following months of public testing. It is the latest in "voice recognition" technology which allows devices to record conversation that is later analyzed and stored by companies who promise to enhance your life experience.
Other, similar technologies include the iPhone's Siri assistant, Microsoft's Cortana and the "OK Google" feature for speaking to Google's search engine.
"Spoken commands can also be used to find something to watch on some TVs, and an upcoming Barbie doll will include an Internet-connected microphone to hear what's being said," AP reported.
"The Internet of Things" is here - why choose to make yourself more vulnerable?And what's more, technology is trending towards even more spoken-word technology, which will only add to already existing concerns about too little privacy in the Information Age.
"We are on the trajectory of a future filled with voice-assisted apps and voice-assisted devices," Forrester Research analyst Fatemeh Khatibloo told the AP. "This is going to require finding the fine balance between creating a really great user experience and something that's creepy."
Some organizations are on the cutting edge of privacy protection, and one such group is the Electronic Privacy Information Center, or EPIC. The group wants the Federal Trade Commission to formulate regulations that apply strict security standards and cloud-storage limitations on the collection and use of personal information devices like Echo absorb.
But as we've seen, even regulations aren't enough; our personal data is breached or hacked or sold or exchanged on a regular basis.
Voluntarily utilizing something like Echo just doesn't make much sense if you're already worried about your privacy.
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