Consumers are apparently willing to trade a certain amount of privacy for convenience.
So what exactly is being collected, stored or shared ?
To work, the Echo is always listening. Once it hears someone utter a keyword, such as “Alexa,” it shares what it hears with Amazon’s servers to process a response. Those conversations are then stored indefinitely. Google’s Home speaker works in a similar fashion.
The Echo “has to listen to everything. That’s kind of disturbing,” said Ryan O’Leary, vice president of WhiteHat Security’s threat research center. “It doesn’t capture voice until it hears the keyword, but it could. You’re trusting the devices to not do that, but it’s entirely possible.”
In the Arkansas case, authorities investigating the death of a man found floating face-up in a hot tub at a friend’s home requested the contents of the home’s Echo and Amazon’s stored recordings in hopes they might contain evidence. The friend is charged with murder.
A judge has signed off on the search, but Amazon has balked. Amazon has declined to comment specifically on the case but said the company objects to “overbroad or otherwise inappropriate demands as a matter of course.”
Some experts worry that allowing such a search would erode people’s privacy.
“It’s not necessarily a direct threat for the average person, but the same thing can be said with any kind of privacy concern,” O’Leary said. “People say you shouldn’t be concerned if you’re not doing anything wrong, but that’s a dangerous precedent to set.”
Meanwhile, companies keep asking consumers to invite them into their homes.