Can Smart Speakers Put Your Privacy at Risk?

Using your voice to control the music playing through your speakers, lock your doors, or purchase paper towels may sound like something out of a science fiction film, but Smart speakers like Amazon's Echo have made it a reality. As useful as this technology is, one of the most pressing concerns it raises is whether customer privacy is at danger. These devices are programmed to listen to specific keywords that will wake them up.

Although Amazon's Smart speaker is the most well known, it is far from the only one available, with Google's Home serving as a competitor. We decided to look at how Smart speakers work, whether they can be trusted to keep your privacy, and whether you should have one in your home as Apple prepares to throw its device into the ring—with rumored facial recognition in addition to voice—as Apple prepares to throw its device into the ring—with rumored facial recognition in addition to voice.

What are Smart Speakers?

Smart speakers are voice-activated artificial intelligence devices that respond to orders. They may be connected to third-party Internet of Things devices like your garage door opener or thermostat, as well as online accounts like Amazon or Spotify. It allows you to manage them with your voice to transform the way people interact with their homes and media devices.

Voice recognition software (such as Apple's Siri) has been available on mobile devices for some time. Smart speakers, on the other hand, such as the Amazon Echo and Google House, are designed to be used as virtual home assistants and may be utilized in a variety of ways. In addition to the gadgets supplied by the three digital behemoths listed, third-party devices have begun to emerge, such as this one, which combines Amazon and Google technologies in one device.

Apple, which is yet to release its Smart speaker, is rumored to be working on one that includes face recognition technology. The camera would be opt-in only, requiring users to activate it. It could recognize who's in the room and adjust music, lighting, and temperature according to that person's preferences. Apple's device will, of course, be Siri-based, which means users will most likely be able to have it read their incoming emails.

How Smart Speakers Might Put Privacy at Risk?

Listening to and obeying your orders as soon as they are said is a crucial feature of Smart speakers. To do so, each gadget has a web-connected microphone that is continually listening for certain words or phrases from you. When you say "Alexa," "Amazon," or "Echo," within hearing distance of an Amazon Echo's microphone, for example, it activates and captures your voice. The recording is sent to an external server for analysis so that the Smart speaker can carry out your request or respond to your query. You may access and delete these audio recordings online because they are streamed and stored remotely.

The approach with Google Home is similar, even down to seeing an online history of your previous requests.

Because your gadgets are programmed to wake up and record as soon as they hear one of their wake words, bits of dialogue may be recorded without your knowledge or approval. Most Smart speaker owners can recall at least one instance when their gadget triggered apparently out of nowhere; they've even been known to respond to voices on people's televisions. Because these gadgets cannot distinguish between various people's voices, they may be activated and requests made by anybody (which is how that six-year-old in Texas was able to order a fancy dollhouse).

Aside from the risk of receiving unwanted products at your front door, there are concerns about how a private home with a voice-activated microphone captures people's words.

Furthermore, as these gadgets improve and are created with more advanced technology, more than basic queries or requests may be recorded, transferred, and kept - will dictating a text message to your smart speaker be preserved as well, and for how long? These are the kinds of questions that privacy experts and consumers alike raise about the Internet of Things.

How to Improve Your Security and Privacy?

Following are some of the precautions that you can take to improve your security and privacy while using Smart Speakers −

  • Manage your preferences - Examine the settings on your smart speaker to ensure that manufacturers do not share your recordings with third-party contractors to enhance their services. Activate the mute button on your virtual assistant. It's a good idea to turn off your virtual assistant if you're not using it. This prevents it from being mistakenly activated without your knowledge.

  • Don't bring up personal issues - When your speaker is switched on, it's recommended not to discuss passwords, credit card numbers, or personal information. Contractors, thieves, or even your geeky next-door neighbor may be listening in on your talks.

  • Remove any recordings from your computer - You can remove your complete dictation history depending on the model of smart speaker you have. If someone gains access to your Apple, Amazon, or Google accounts, they won't be able to listen to your recordings.

  • Create a separate network for IoT devices - If criminals get access to your home Wi-Fi, they may be able to listen in on your smart speaker chats. Setting up a network purely for your IoT devices and smart home system is recommended. To guarantee that your data remains secret, consider installing a VPN on your routers.

  • Make sure your passwords are strong - In your passwords, be sure to mix lowercase and capital letters, as well as special characters and numerals. Use different passwords for different accounts.

  • Use a VPN - A virtual private network encrypts your data and hides your IP address, reducing the possibility of being hacked.