Are They Listening?

in tech •  last year

Amazon and Google seem to be preparing for an all out war with each other over the smart device in homes market. The Amazon Alexa (Echo, Dot and full size) versus the Google Home (and Mini) are constantly being pushed in television advertising as the "next big thing" in technology. There is possibly a hidden concern here that not many are discussing.


Are they listening?

The point of these devices is to listen for the command to interact with their owners. For them to "hear" that command, they have to listen to EVERYTHING that is said in their vicinity.

Obviously, the terms of service and such state that information is not being transmitted back to Amazon, or Google, or whomever may want such information. Yet, as with cell phones, when you discuss things, search for things, buy things, etc using these devices, you are eventually inundated with advertising based on that information.

Someone is collecting data

Someone is collecting data on what you do with these devices, well probably all devices. This is easily proven when you are using a computer and search for something or look at an item online then peruse social media or any site that has AdSense, or another popular advertising service serving advertising, and you see ads for what you just searched for, bought, or even scarier - only discussed in the vicinity of your cell phone, or Alexa or Google Home device.

Prove it to yourself

A coworker and myself have tried this a few times. We have our cell phones with us at work. We will randomly discuss something we have never searched for on our phones, or at home on computers. Basically, a "clean" topic as far as advertising opportunities are concerned. The more popular the topic of discussion, the better chance you will see results quicker.

We have seen ads appear as quickly as later that day on Facebook for instance. Ads based on what we were discussing, but never searched for.

Conspiracy theory or paranoia?

Take your pick. Me personally, I don't like having MORE listening devices in my area, especially at home. Judging by sales and advertising for these things, I am in the minority. What are you?

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Yeah I don't trust those devices at all. I don't know why I would pay for something that gives marketers more access to my life. It really feels Orwellian having a company (both Amazon and Google) that traffics in personal information listening to everything you say in your house. I was miffed today when I saw a story on yahoo about how Fitbit is using big data to learn about people's sleeping schedules. I would have opted out of that if I knew they were collecting that information even if not personally identifiable for their own purposes. But either way I am not getting an Alexa or Google home because I find them extraordinarily creepy!


You bring up a point I meant to bring up, Orwellian in nature. It sure does seem that way doesn't it? Thank you for bringing that up.

Another good point about Amazon and Google both trafficking in personal information and such. That is completely true. Their business models revolve around knowing as much as possible about the people using their services. Scary.

This is a very important topic, re steemed so that others might give this the attention it deserves. I will try the test you suggested.


Thank you for the support.


You're welcome @triverse, appreciate your post.

It is evident that they would not disapprove the opportunity of this to take advantage of advertising, and I understand it, there are people who live by advertising, but there is a fine line between publicity and invasion of privacy, and I only say that we do not know who is listening.


Exactly. While they may be listening for "keywords" such as whatever calls the device into action, how do we know they are not cataloging other words as well? Working on speech recognition? Basically spying.