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Is Alexa Spying on You?

Sam Chester Sep 20, 2019
Using only your voice you can surf the Internet, manage interior items and much more. The voice assistant from Amazon provides you these opportunities. Alexa is one of the most popular and controversial Amazon's products. Nevertheless, it is a perfect example of what the Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence is capable of when they are united.

Alexa is listening! Is there anything we have to worry about?

Would you allow a stranger to eavesdrop everything that you are talking about in your day-to-day life and record that chatters at your own house? You probably yelled, “Are you crazy?”. However, this is exactly what Amazon is doing with the millions of us using the Echo with a microphone.
In May 2019, KIRO7 posted an article about the incident that had been occurred with a woman in Portland. The woman told the agency that the Alexa device had recorded a conversation with her husband and had sent that record to one of her husband's colleagues. They thought that they have been hacked but it turned out that Alexa simply was too helpful.
However, Amazon declares that their employees have no direct access to the information that could identify a person. They are supposed to use two-factor identification, as well as the services' encryption, and the audit of the controlled environment to ensure maximum protection.
It is worth mentioning that Alexa is a program based on Machine Learning and AI architecture, that operates in the cloud. The algorithms have been developing but they are supported by “legions of human mentors”.
But what does it look like in practice? The fact is that Amazon employs thousands of people to listen to voice recordings captured in Echo users’ homes and offices. The aim is to improve the Echo's understanding of human speech and to make it more responsive and useful.
The Bloomberg Agency interrogated seven representatives of that department who have to listen up to a thousand conversations per one shift. The interviewed analysts admitted that sometimes they came across things that can be regarded as private, such as amateur vocal performances and conversations where details related to bank accounts were specified.

“Is there anything we should worry about?”, the answer is "yes, there is”.

In the Internet of Things world, privacy is essential. If you want to stay private when on the Internet, it is not enough to secure your password. It is a complex matter that requires a serious approach (read how you can save money on Internet safety first).
Some cybersecurity experts consider that recording stuff as untrustworthy and recommend to turn them off whenever some delicate information is pronounced or at least retreat a safe distance away. But if you do not want to speak in a whisper in your own house, there are some ways to secure the Amazon Echo.
First, you need to go to your device settings and disable everything that might collect your data. You can also switch it off and use it only when needed.
Amazon avouches that no data will be collected and recorded unless “wake word” (for example, “Hey, Alexa”) is pronounced. When the light ring on the top of the device turns blue, it means that your voice requests streaming to the cloud right now. The Privacy Settings page is available through www.amazon.com/alexaprivacy or via the Privacy tab.
Since such voice-activated devices as Amazon Echo might be connected to other devices without human interaction, forming a multi-branch network (the approach that the whole Internet of Things concept is based on), theoretically hackers can intercept the system using a smart Echo device, getting access to the information in the laptop, smartphone or computer.
It depends on what devices Alexa is able to connect to. So, the protection, in that case, might be carried out by using a VPN for routers to protect the whole network at once.