Is Amazon’s Alexa Harming Privacy?



Growing home automation market

Despite the sluggish growth in the US housing segment, home improvement is gaining popularity as consumers look to upgrade their homes and seek easy access to services at home. Amid the need for smart home products, tech giants such as Apple, Amazon (AMZN), Alphabet’s (GOOGL) Google, and Facebook (FB) are competing to gain from the growing home automation segment.

While these smart home devices are making consumers’ lives easy by answering questions about the weather, switching lights on or off, or playing music, they are also listening to users’ conversations, which some might say can cause intrusions on customers’ personal lives.

Alexa got confused

Recently, a Portland couple disclosed that their Amazon Echo device had recorded their private conversation and sent it to a random person on their contact list. Amazon reportedly confirmed the incident and agreed that the device had been activated after hearing the word “Alexa” and had then misinterpreted the couple’s private conversation as a command to send a message to a contact.

The incident has raised privacy concerns for Amazon, which dominates the home speaker market with its Echo devices. However, Amazon said that the event was a rare one, as it takes the utmost care when it comes to privacy.

Growing privacy concerns

Many incidents have taken place recently where Internet giants have mishandled users’ privacy. Facebook came into the spotlight in March following revelations that political-consulting company Cambridge Analytica had unethically gathered the private data of ~87 million Facebook users. Facebook’s data breach incident also raised questions about other companies such as Google, Twitter (TWTR), and Snap (SNAP), which obtain the private data of users. Facebook and Twitter were also questioned over rising cases of abusive content, cybercrime, trolling, and the spread of fake news.

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