What The Tech: voice assistants always listening

What the Tech

(WHATTHETECH)— I suppose we’ve all heard a beep or ding or bloop when one of the many voice-assistants springs into action. We expect them to be ready when we ask Siri or Alexa or Google for the forecast or when we get to move the clocks forward. I’ll bet you’ve even become frustrated at least once when the listening device you’re talking to isn’t responding.

Yet there’s quite a bit of concern that these devices are supposed to be always listening. What’s troubling I guess for most, is not the listening, it’s the recording.

Students at Northeastern University conducted a ​study ​that found listening devices such as the Echo Dot (Alexa), Google Home Mini (Google Assistant), Apple HomePod (Siri?) and Harmon Kardon Invoke (Cortana) were activated by accident up to 19 times a day.

The students used audio in popular TV shows to conduct the study and counted how many times the devices would be activated because someone in a show said something similar to the wake words.

You should take a look at the study but students reported the HomePod and Cortana devices activated the most followed by the Echo Dot Gen 2, Google Home Mini and the Echo Dot Gen 3.

If you have an Amazon Alexa device in your home, it has been recording you whenever it hears something similar to its action word, usually “Alexa”.

By visiting the history settings in the Alexa app you can see all of your Alexa activity including the recorded audio. You’ll likely see several instances labeled as “not intended for Alexa”. You can listen to those recordings which might include conversations picked up by mistake.

Amazon TV commercials activates my devices the most but I’ve found other TV shows will prompt her to begin recording as well. Anything similar to “Alexa” will do it.

If you have an iPhone, you’ve probably heard Siri leap into action when someone says “seriously”.

You cannot see what Siri has recorded or heard before but you can delete the recordings by going to ‘settings’, then ‘Siri’ where you’ll see an option for ‘history’ and can delete all recordings.

In recorded messages from Google you should go to your My Activity page in your Google account. If you’re currently logged into your Google account, just go to www.myactivity.google.com

You’ll have the option of deleting all voice recording history, all location history, search history and YouTube history.

These devices have to listen continuously for their wake word to be effective. They do not need to save your recordings.

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