Recently, we bought our granddaughter a smart television for Christmas. We went over with her options and she chose a Toshiba model through Amazon. It is loaded with Alexa.
We joked about Alexa spying on her. She says she accepts the fact that the government knows where she is. And, she says that she is confident that devices like smart phones and Echo Dot listen and feed information to the company they work for all of the time. (After all, Amazon sells the Echo and Echo Dot at a loss in order to make it easier for you to buy from them.)
To make her point our granddaughter told me that she was on her smartphone with a friend discussing some future purchase and an advertisement for a similar product popped up on the tablet she had been working on.
It turns out that the devices listen all of the time; not just when you ask for something or give them a command.
The government does know where our granddaughter lives, but who told them? It seems that locating the Echo (or any of the similar devices sold by Google, Samsung, and other companies) by GPS is integral to the workings of the device.
Where does paranoia end and valid concern begin?
When one of the members of our U/U Fellowship found out that we had security cameras in place during that were on during the service, and that the service was recorded, she became very agitated. She was somewhat appeased when we told her that the security cameras were actually for the members benefit since we are a liberal church attended by a large proportion of gay and lesbian couples (like her and her wife) and that we record the services for “shut-ins”. She said we should have told her before they joined. I suppose that I might feel the same if I had spent most of my life “hiding in a closet”.
We have an Echo. It plays music on command, provides the local weather forecast, gives the Reuters’ daily news brief when asked and makes it easy to buy from Amazon. I asked it, “Alexa, who else is listening in?” She answered, “I’m not sure I understand your question.” She is a little more impersonal than Siri. Siri would have replied, “I’m not sure I understand your question….Rodney.” Or she might have been much more entertaining. When asked what she was wearing Siri replied. “People have an unusual interest in my wardrobe….Rodney.” Those Apple guys and gals are constantly upgrading Siri.
I’m not bothered by having Alexa in the home. Maybe I should be. I’m just not a conspiracy theorist. I know that the Echo is a marketing tool. I understood that on the front end. It may, also, be just one of the tools that the NSA or Homeland Security uses to monitor all of us.