MCViewPoint

Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

Posts Tagged ‘Echo’

Top tech investor claims smart assistants are being used to SPY on users by Google, Apple and Amazon | Daily Mail Online

Posted by M. C. on September 3, 2019

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7417033/Top-tech-investor-claims-smart-assistants-used-SPY-users-Google-Apple-Amazon.html

By Ralph R. Ortega For Dailymail.com

  • John Borthwick expects regulators will give more control of privacy to users
  • He warns popular smart speakers are more than listening for audible responses 
  • Tech companies collect information when ‘people passively act on the device’

Tech investor John Borthwick believes the convenience of today’s smart assistants from Amazon, Google and Apple comes at a price far higher than the cost paid for the devices.

‘From a consumer standpoint, user standpoint, is that these, these devices are being used for what’s — it’s hard to call it anything but surveillance,’ Borthwick says, warning that government regulation may be the only safeguard to user privacy.

Borthwick, a venture capitalist who started out in the technology industry with a web content studio that was bought by AOL, and who later headed tech strategy for Time Warner, tells Yahoo that he expects regulators will hand over more control of privacy to device users.

As it stands now, he warns tech companies that manufacture and sell popular smart speakers, like Amazon’s Echo, Google Assistant and Apple’s HomePod, are having much more than they’re audible responses recorded.

‘They’ve gone to those devices and they’ve said, ‘Give us data when people passively act upon the device.’ So in other words, I walk over to that light switch,’ Borthwick said. ‘I turn it off, turn it on, it’s now giving data back to the smart speaker.’

Tech companies provide an activation, or ‘wake’ command with most devices.

Amazon’s Echo, for example, will not respond until it hears a user say ‘Alexa,’ followed by a command. A similar protocol is followed with Google Assistant, and when an Apple product user requires help from Siri.

Borthwick, however, points out how the speakers are connected with other products, where surveillance is less obvious.

‘These smart speakers– I was particularly sort of disturbed by– it sounds very wonky, but the– the smart speakers are driven by an implication,’ he tells Yahoo…

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Angry Birds, tracking device? - Salon.com

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Amazon Workers Are Listening to What You Tell Alexa

Posted by M. C. on April 11, 2019

SHOCKED!

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-04-10/is-anyone-listening-to-you-on-alexa-a-global-team-reviews-audio?srnd=premium

By

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Tens of millions of people use smart speakers and their voice software to play games, find music or trawl for trivia. Millions more are reluctant to invite the devices and their powerful microphones into their homes out of concern that someone might be listening.

Sometimes, someone is.

Amazon.com Inc. employs thousands of people around the world to help improve the Alexa digital assistant powering its line of Echo speakers. The team listens to voice recordings captured in Echo owners’ homes and offices. The recordings are transcribed, annotated and then fed back into the software as part of an effort to eliminate gaps in Alexa’s understanding of human speech and help it better respond to commands.

The Alexa voice review process, described by seven people who have worked on the program, highlights the often-overlooked human role in training software algorithms. In marketing materials Amazon says Alexa “lives in the cloud and is always getting smarter.” But like many software tools built to learn from experience, humans are doing some of the teaching.

The team comprises a mix of contractors and full-time Amazon employees who work in outposts from Boston to Costa Rica, India and Romania, according to the people, who signed nondisclosure agreements barring them from speaking publicly about the program. They work nine hours a day, with each reviewer parsing as many as 1,000 audio clips per shift, according to two workers based at Amazon’s Bucharest office, which takes up the top three floors of the Globalworth building in the Romanian capital’s up-and-coming Pipera district. The modern facility stands out amid the crumbling infrastructure and bears no exterior sign advertising Amazon’s presence.

The work is mostly mundane. One worker in Boston said he mined accumulated voice data for specific utterances such as “Taylor Swift” and annotated them to indicate the searcher meant the musical artist. Occasionally the listeners pick up things Echo owners likely would rather stay private: a woman singing badly off key in the shower, say, or a child screaming for help. The teams use internal chat rooms to share files when they need help parsing a muddled word—or come across an amusing recording…

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