Fire Your Personal Assistant Devices


To take a little detour from our usual subject matters around here, I think you’re crazy if this is you:

The woman, who was identified only by her first name in the news report, said every room in her family’s home was wired with the Amazon devices to control her home’s heat, lights and security system.

This particular woman is in the news because an Amazon Echo device (aka “Alexa”) mistakenly acted according to a series of cues that its owners didn’t actually speak and sent a recording to somebody on their contact list whose name happened to be similar to a word from their conversation.

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It’s not encouraging that something like this could happen by accident, but more disturbing is that the mechanisms for it to happen are in place to begin with.  At some point, a payoff in convenience or the “neat” factor ceases to be worth the creeping loss of our privacy.  For my part, the fact that computers, tablets, and phones don’t have hard-wired shut-off switches for cameras and microphones already puts us past that line.  Bugging our own homes goes well beyond that.