NEW YORK (AP) – Did anyone invite a spy to your house during the holiday season? It is likely, if a friend or relative gave you a voice activated speaker or any other smart device.
It's easy to forget, but all kinds of smart devices – from speakers connected to the internet with voice assistants, such as Amazon's Alexa, to TVs with integrated Netflix – may be listening to users and sometimes even watching them. As with most new technology, installing such devices means weighing on the one hand the risks of invasion of privacy and on the other hand the practicality they offer.
The IDC research firm estimates that 815 million smart speakers, security cameras and other devices were purchased worldwide in 2019, 23% more than in 2018. Many of the sales were for gifts.RELATED
You can avoid all risks if you return the devices immediately, but if you decide to keep them – and the artificial intelligence that accompanies them – there are some things you can do to minimize their possible espionage:
SPEAKERS LISTEN … AND SOME OBSERVE
Smart speakers like Amazon's Echo and Google Home allow you to check the weather and make appointments with simple voice commands. The most equipped versions include cameras and screens.
Many of these devices listen constantly, waiting to receive commands, and connect to corporate servers for execution. Commonly, they ignore private conversations and will transmit sound recordings only when the user activates the device. Some have a mute button to completely disable microphones, but there is no easy way to verify those protections.
And another th ing: voice commands sent over the internet are usually stored indefinitely and include conversations that users make in the background. They can be accessed for demands and investigations.
As for the models with screens, many also have cameras for video chats. Consider turning off or turning the device to the wall when you don't use it.
SECURITY WITH SECURITY VIDEO
Online security cameras allow you to see your pets or children when you're not at home. The bad? If you can watch the video in an application, it is possible that a skilled hacker can also do it.
If you use the same password for several services, a hacker who manages to steal your password can also use it for the camera service. So do not use the same password.
ARE THE SMART LOCKS SO SMART?
Smart locks allow you to open the doors with an app to allow guests to enter if you're not at home. Thieves might try to hack the system, although it is easier for them to break a window.
As a precaution, disable any ability to open doors with a command on a smart speaker, especially if you have naughty children or teenagers who want to hide someone.
AS TO THE TELEVISIONS
Many smart TVs or devices that allow streaming receive microphones for voice activated controls and video search. That means there are audio fragments that are transmitted over the internet. The same warnings for smart speakers apply here.
TOYS THAT SPEAK
Children may be delighted with dolls or other toys that respond to the voice, but if the toy is connected to the internet, pay attention to how much control it gives parents and if it allows children to connect with the outside world.