Is My Smart Speaker Listening All the Time?

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Needless to say, a smart home without a smart speaker is not a smart home at all. Whether it is for listening to music, controlling the connected devices, or getting quick updates on weather info, smart speakers have been an essential thing for households.

To understand how popular these speakers have become, you can look at the sales report from Amazon. In the first three months of 2022, Amazon shipped more than 30 million smart speakers worldwide.

However, recent reports suggest that your smart speakers might be listening to you even when you are not giving any voice commands

Echo Dot, Google Mini and Alexa Echo SMart Speakers on a table together
Smart Speakers – Source: Make Life Click

In fact, according to VPNOverview, your smart speaker might be collecting more data than initially realized.

The always-listening functionality of smart speakers is crucial. You can turn it off, but developers can not make the devices more intuitive without the always-listen function. 

But are the audio recordings or transcriptions just for improving the device? Amazon, Apple, and Google promise a minimal level of data security. 

Smart Speaker
Source: Jumpstory

These brands even assure the highest levels of security. But the users of the smart speakers will eventually bring third-party integrations to the network. Well, that’s where the problems begin.

VPNOverview says that the smart speaker makers do not thoroughly regulate some third-party skills. 

And this could eventually open an open gateway for hackers, resulting in various leaks. Yes, there are ways to alleviate these risks. You can activate a VPN on the device, for example.

Smart Speaker
Source: Jumpstory

However, there is another concern that the company has raised. That is, some of smart speakers can initiate online purchases right from the device. 

For example, you can order stuff right from Alexa-enabled devices. So, if a third party can get access to your smart speaker, you can end up with a surprised credit card bill.

The fix for the online purchase issue would be to set up two-factor authentication. Through that, you can manually authorize each of the transactions. But doesn’t it defeat the purpose of having a smart speaker?

Smart Speaker
Source: Jumpstory

So, the ultimate finding is that most use cases prioritize convenience over privacy and security. And that makes most of the measures taken by the smart speaker manufacturers pretty much useless.

By default, Google smart speakers do not retain audio recordings on their servers. Amazon says that you can review and delete your voice recordings and transcripts if you want to. It even has a secure cloud storage solution.

And lastly, Apple says that its smart speakers only store a minimum amount of required data for six months. However, these safety measures are not enough.

Slava is a man of mystery and no-one seems to know exactly where he is at any point in time. When he isn't enjoying writing about all things audio and technical he can be found researching his next project of interest. The man never rests.

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