I’ve seen a lot of conspiracy theories that Facebook or Google are eavesdropping on our conversations.
And there’s been a lot of mockery over the privacy concerns about people putting the Amazon Echo into their living room.
But at the same time people seem totally fine with carrying a camera and microphone around with them literally everywhere they go, at all times. Your phone isn’t as obvious a target, but it’s a much more real privacy risk.
And so, inevitably:
These apps, once downloaded onto a smartphone, have the ability to keep tabs on the viewing habits of their users [by] collecting TV-viewing data for advertisers. Using a smartphone’s microphone, Alphonso’s software can detail what people watch by identifying audio signals in TV ads and shows, sometimes even matching that information with the places people visit and the movies they see. […] Alphonso has a deal with the music-listening app Shazam, which has microphone access on many phones. Alphonso is able to provide the snippets it picks up to Shazam, he said, which can use its own content-recognition technology to identify users and then sell that information to Alphonso. [emphasis mine]
Do you have a phone? Do you have Shazam installed? I know I did until about ten minutes ago.
Because of the obvious risks, the companies putting those things in your living room are seriously concerned about privacy. As an Amazon employee I know more about the Echo than its competitors, but I know that the Echo only “listens” when triggered (it is aware of sound at all times, but only records after being triggered), and lets users audit and delete (see items #3 and #4 here) any recordings they don’t want stored.