Technology

How much do they listen to and what to do about it?

August 31, 2019
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Sean Agerson. Courtesy SJA Solutions

It’s come to light that companies who supply our everyday tech pieces (i.e., cell phones, computers and smart speakers) are actually listening in, taking note and distributing users' personal information. It’s modern day Big Brother — only this time, rather than someone always watching, they are listening.

So, let’s dive in.

What do they have access to?

Well everything…. The default setting on most tech devices automatically records and uploads user’s data to a cloud where its then stored. Meaning, if you have the “Hey Alexa/Google/Siri” feature turned on, the device is always listening, collecting, and storing what you say. Don’t worry, you can turn off the feature by manually adjusting your settings, but the “how to” varies depending on the device and its carrier.

What happens with the information?

Once the information is stored, one of two things can happen. Either employees of the company who collected the information review it, or the data is outsourced to a third party. While there isn’t a large sum of information available on what specifically happens to the information that is taken, it has been linked to targeted advertisements.

Should consumers be concerned?

There are two arguments when it comes to this form of data collection. One, it’s a good thing! Companies are able to take consumer data and use it to improve their products, which ultimately benefits the user. Yet, on the flip side, when a company is able to listen to your conversations, it feels like a massive invasion of privacy.

Generally, security and convenience go in opposite directions. We as consumers, in an increasingly technical world, prefer things to be easier: i.e., voice control, automated lights, etc. But, the more we want companies to cater to our needs, the more information we have to be willing to give them.

Just recently information has been released regarding the use of personal information, meaning there is a lot we still don’t know.

Recommendations for your security

In a home setting, devices that listen to you are extremely convenient. You can ask your device to play your favorite song or tell you about the weather, but in a work setting, they might not be as welcomed. If your company has a confidential HR meeting, or is working on a major release, it’s unlikely you would want those conversations recorded and stored. So, perhaps you don’t have those forms of devices in highly confidential meetings.

In essence, we recommend being aware and looking into your privacy settings. The conversation on consumer privacy in this country is just getting started, so don’t panic quite yet. Eventually, we will see broader awareness and perhaps even set privacy standards to protect users and their data.