From the moment you wake up until the time you go to bed, personal assistant products like Google Home and Amazon Echo are always listening.
The devices are designed to connect to your smartphones, email, streaming services, even thermostats.They know what you watch, what you buy and how your pay for it.
Many experts say all it takes is one distracted or dishonest employee to put your private information at risk.
“People work with these technologies on the back end,” explained tech security expert Jason Kee. “And we have to trust these companies with that technology, and make sure they’re securing it properly.”
Unless you manually shut off the microphone, the devices are listening- even when you think you’re out of earshot.
The packaging even points out they can hear you clear across the room.
When asked if she was spying, Amazon’s “Alexa” responded “I only send audio back to Amazon when I hear you say the ‘Wake’ word.”
The Google Home assistant also had a response when asked if all conversations were being recorded “Google home listens for the ‘Hot’ word and after it hears it, sends a recording of what you say to Google.”
Only Google and Amazon know exactly what the devices hear, record, or send to servers. Both companies say they only use your information to serve you better.
But they also have the right to change what the devices do- and how they do it, without notice. It’s in the terms of agreement.
And even if you trust the companies — who ‘else’ can listen in?
“Someone who has the ability to access your machine from outside of your home basically, could potentially use those items to spy on you, listen in.” Kee said.
Google and Amazon insist they take steps to protect your devices and your information.
But since criminals are known to hack into everything from webcams, to security systems, to baby monitors, tech security experts say make sure you have a firewall.
Make sure all your devices are protected. Always use updated antivirus software and malware protection on your computers.
And remember, your devices may be smart, but if you don’t want them listening, you have to be smarter.