Are Amazon and Google Listening to Your Conversations to Advertise to You?

March 12, 2018 •

Amazon Echo

Image via Amazon Press Room

“Ok Google – Please ask Siri and Alexa to stop listening to me and selling my information to advertisers.”

Amazon Echo & Google Home

Have you ever been talking to a friend about a specific product, only for it to appear as a sponsored product on Amazon or Facebook shortly after?

Was it purely a coincidence? Perhaps a very clever algorithm? Or are your devices listening to your conversations and learning what products and services you talk about, with purposes of advertising them to you later?

Smart devices and digital assistants, like the Amazon Echo, aren’t always listening to your conversations. They use “passive listening” to listen for a keyword. Once the keyword is spoken, the device or digital assistant will then begin recording to assist the query.

Google states that:

Google Home listens in short (a few seconds) snippets for the hotword. Those snippets are deleted if the hotword is not detected, and none of that information leaves your device until the hotword is heard.

Does this mean that Google and Amazon aren’t listening for other keywords and tagging your Internet-footprint with those tags to follow you around? Perhaps Alexa can also listen for you to say Ford Mustang, and your account will now be remembered for being in the market for a new car or car parts.

Smart Marketing or Intrusive?

The final question is if any of this really matters. So what if Amazon and Google are monitoring for keywords that are spoken in your home for the sake of tailoring specific ads to you? Wouldn’t you rather have ads for products and services you may actually care about? Or would you rather see yet another advertisement for a car insurance company and their annoying spokesperson?

Even if you have nothing to hide, your privacy is valuable. You don’t have to sacrifice privacy just to own the newest technology. Keeping personal information secure is a big deal for those who wish to remain private. So, be sure to stay aware and read the privacy policies of your new technology.

The final decision is up to you. Are you ready to let a smart speaker into your home? Or, are you going to don a tinfoil hat, throw away your new smartphone and welcome the Nokia 3310 back into your life?

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