The whole purpose of technology is to make our lives easier and more convenient. But that level of convenience doesn’t often come without a price. Alexa is no exception, and may come with one of the heaviest prices yet… your privacy. The most obvious issue is that Alexa sometimes overhears conversations and places orders for things you may not have wanted or needed to purchase. But that’s small potatoes considering the other information you’re inadvertently sharing.
• Policy changes may make it possible for your conversations to be printed out. These conversations are allegedly supposed to be limited to those you have directly with Alexa. However, Alexa doesn’t always make the distinction between a conversation with someone else and the device. That means your personal chats might be shared in a transcript read by any developer who chooses to target your device.
• Even if private conversations aren’t shared, there is still the issue of your buying information being used to create highly focused and targeted ads. That might seem convenient, considering it means you’ll be exposed to things you’ve shown an interest in, but what happens when you don’t want that interest shared?
• Marketing strategists aren’t always known for their ability to live within set parameters. Even if Alexa doesn’t accidentally pick up personal conversations, who’s to say the device won’t be directed to? Think that’s a stretch? Consider the Vizio scandal, where users who didn’t know they were being watched or listened to at all found that their television had been observing them.
• This won’t end with direct marketing. Sure, you might see a video that makes fun of Alexa ordering things the owner didn’t actually want. It’s good for a laugh until you realize that Alexa wasn’t listening to the owner when it placed the order, but was instead following the directions of a television commercial. Marketing doesn’t get much easier than creating commercials that don’t even have to convince you to buy anything because they can simply instruct a device to do it for you.
• The best way to avoid any situations like this is to avoid conversations anywhere in the vicinity of a device that can record, listen or watch. Shut off any devices you aren’t using and even better, shut off their power source. You can protect your privacy and reduce your energy consumption all at once.