Smart speakers and phones are excellent devices that can make our lives easier in so many ways. But are they always listening to us? Here we will take a closer look at the technology behind these devices and explain how they work.
We will also discuss some of the privacy concerns associated with them and offer tips for protecting your data. So, whether you are considering buying a smart speaker or phone, or you already have one and want to make sure your privacy is protected, keep reading for more.
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How often have you discussed a specific product or service only to see an instant ad for that item popping up on your browsers and other internet-connected devices? Well, you are not alone.
Approximately 68% of users believe their smart home devices listen to them when they are unaware. Every day of our lives revolves around our smartphones, just as stories of smartphones spying on us are commonplace. You might find yourself wondering if Alexa or Siri is spying on you.
About the Companies
Amazon, the tech giant, reportedly admits to employing thousands of workers to monitor what is said near an enabled Alexa Echo device.
The company says it’s all about enhancing the customer experience, and employees enter new information into Alexa’s software, although that only occurs in a small percentage of recordings.
On the other hand, Facebook completely denies using your phone’s microphone to inform advertisements on your News Feed. Instead, the company uses your interests and profile information to recommend content geared towards you to get those oddly specific ads.
The Facebook app admits that it can access your microphone (if you permit it) and actively uses a feature that requires audio. Their knowledge about you allows them to make predictions about what to advertise to you that are often uncannily accurate.
Even though companies like Google and Facebook might not listen in, their means to create ads can be just as intrusive. For example, Facebook monitors users on 23% of the websites they visit. Google tracks almost 70% of websites. Also, Google acknowledges having access to 70% of all card transactions in the United States.
Protect Your Privacy around Your Devices
Here are a few simple steps to keep your online activities and private conversations private if you’re concerned about your data and what large corporations like Google do.
You can use the Alexa app on your smartphone device to:
- Go to the menu on the left side of the screen and select Alexa account.
- Go to settings, then click Manage how Alexa improves with your data.
- Click the button that says Help develop new features and turn it off. For example, it would help if you switched off the counter under Improve transactions by using messages.
Amazon should be able to control what information you send to them with these settings.
It is possible to deny the Facebook app access to your microphone after installing it on any device.
On Android devices
- To access the Applications menu, go to Settings
- Application manager and click on Facebook
- Turn off the microphone once you have selected Permissions
On iOS devices
- Select Facebook under your Settings menu
- By choosing the Settings tab and toggling the microphone on/off switch
Depending on your preference, the settings can be toggled on and off using the instructions above.
Users of Google’s smart home devices can assess and delete recordings made by the devices. The “Ok Google” wake phrase may also be turned off to opt-out of being recorded altogether.
On Android devices
- Go to Settings and then Google
- Select Voice and then Search & Now
- Then select OK Google detection off to turn off the wake phrase
On iOS devices
- Google Assistant can be accessed through the Settings
- Click on the microphone and slide the switch to the off position
Yes, you are right. Siri might be listening to you as well. The Hey Siri wake phrase was introduced with iOS 8, so she’s always alert for requests. The Siri feature can be turned off without permanently removing it from your phone.
- Navigate to Settings, then to General
- Then toggle switch that allows Hey Siri to off
Your Privacy Matters
While it’s unnerving to think about our devices constantly listening in on us, it is most likely to curate data according to your preferences. However, if you are feeling paranoid and want to disable the microphone on your device, go ahead – your privacy matters!
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