It’s always on. Always listening. Amazon’s Alexa smart tech devices–including the Echo, Dot, and others–offer convenience. But at what price to your privacy? A new bombshell report revealed that Alexa isn’t the only one listening to everything you say. Alexa is the biggest privacy threat in our lives–and we invited her in!
The problem is the always-on microphone. Amazon devices are constantly monitoring for commands. Even though the devices are only supposed to respond after you speak the “wake” word–usually Alexa’s name–the microphone never stops listening.
And we recently found out that Amazon employees can listen to those microphones. Theoretically, they’re just monitoring the feeds to improve product performance. But since your Alexa devices are linked to your Amazon account, and since that account includes everything from your home address to your credit card information, it’s reasonable to feel concerned. Threatened, even.
A group of anonymous Amazon employees decided to blow the whistle on the company. They went to Bloomberg News to share their concerns about the way Amazon deals with customer privacy. Despite signing NDAs, these employees felt that things had gone too far.
Thousands of Employees?
Amazon thinks it’s no big deal. “Access to internal tools is highly controlled, and is only granted to a limited number of employees who require these tools to train and improve the service by processing an extremely small sample of interactions,” they wrote in response to the accusations that their employees could easily track down customers.
Bloomberg did some more digging and found out that the “limited number” of employees is upwards of a thousand people! And those employees can find out not only our home addresses but also our phone numbers.
Wiretapping and GPS Tracking
This is just the latest privacy nightmare involving Amazon Alexa. In 2016, the FBI would “neither confirm nor deny” that they had ever used the devices for wiretapping during investigations. The NSA can access your phone even if it turned off. There’s zero reason to think that these agencies can not–nor would not–do the same with the Echo.
Law enforcement no longer needs to bug our homes, our cars, even our bodies. We’re constantly surrounded by microphones that record everything we say. Devices that track our GPS movements. And all of them linked to accounts that cover our bank information, purchase history, and browsing data.
Power of Data
Let’s say that neither Amazon nor its employees would ever use our data against us. That still leaves the possibility of hackers cracking open that vault of information. After the Cambridge Analytica scandal, where we learned just how easy it was to sway public opinion through social media, we became a lot more aware of how companies were using our data to understand us. And manipulate us.
We usually focus on external threats. Natural disasters. EMP attacks. Biochemical warfare. But what if our greatest enemy is the one we invited into our homes? Sure, Amazon Alexa devices make it easy to listen to our favorite music or order a pizza. But is the convenience worth the total loss of privacy? To allow private companies to know literally everything about us–and our families?