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Big Brother is listening, but you probably invited him in

Always-on smart speakers are listening in.
Amazon Echo, smart speakers, always-on smart speakers
Your smart speaker is listening. Photo: File

They’re always listening.

Always-on speakers are quickly becoming fixtures in modern homes, but the technology that allows speakers like Amazon Echo and Google Home to tell you the weather and give you news headlines on command means these speakers are always listening in on what you’re saying.

Creepy as it may seem, this technology is here to stay as evidenced by Apple announcing it was planning a rollout of its own version of smart speaker: the HomePod.

Always-on technology means exactly what it sounds like: your speaker is always listening in the background, waiting to be summoned.

So what are the risks of this always-on technology? Advertising-focused eavesdropping is probably the most likely to infiltrate the in-home smart speaker market, reports Popular Mechanics. Speakers could theoretically be programmed to listen in for keywords, like brand names or products, and then sell that information to advertisers.

We're in an era when webcam hacking is downright prevalent; everyone is putting black electrical take over their webcam lenses, and leaked CIA documents show appliances as innocuous as your TV can be hacked. But when it comes to the smart speaker, consumers are more likely to choose convenience over the possible privacy invasion.

But even if the eavesdropping is too much for you to stomach, there’s always the option to unplug it when it’s not in use.

But if it’s the smart speakers that you feel are really crossing the privacy line, it’s worth noting Android and Apple already employ similar technology on their cellphones — OK Google, or Hello, Siri, anyone?

But, if you want to avoid them altogether, you can always revert back to your circa 2005 flip phone.

So what are the devices using this technology today?

Amazon Echo

The original in-home smart speaker, launched in 2014. Introduce yourself to Alexa and see what she can do at your command.

Google Home

Powered by Google assistant, just say "OK, Google" to activate.

Coming soon:

Apple’s HomePod — the much-anticipated new Apple product.

Microsoft’s Invoke — Coming fall 2017.

 
 
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