Smart Speaker Technology: Privacy Risks and Solutions

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Technology is embedded in our everyday world, with gadgets, gizmos, and devices around every corner. Smart speakers and voice-activated assistants boast a variety of benefits and services, as well as entertainment and convenient features. But accessing the tech provided by smart speakers can also open you up to a realm of possibilities and risks. Before putting your privacy and personal security at risk, it's important to fortify yourself with the right information. Read on to find out everything you need to know about smart speakers, the risks they impose on your privacy.

How Smart Speakers Can Affect Your Privacy and Security

Smart speakers provide you with easy-to-use technology that's hands-free and loaded with features. They use artificial intelligence, natural language processing, the internet, and a whole lot of innovative tech to accomplish tasks that would otherwise require at least a keyboard and mouse. From checking the weather and taking notes, to music and voice call capabilities, smart speakers can pretty much do it all. But as with all technology, smart speakers aren't perfect. One of the major tradeoffs of using this wonderful technology is the risk it places on your privacy and security, and here's why:

The Always-Listening Ears of Smart Speakers

The majority of smart speakers are designed with a type of technology that allows it to "listen" to you. This ability is what allows it to perform the tasks you are asking for. Many speakers also listen for a particular word or phrase in order to wake up, or power on. And after hearing this word or phrase, your smart speaker begins to analyze any audio that follows. This means that your smart speaker may be listening to you, your conversations, and the things going on around you, even when not being ordered to.

Whichever brand or platform you choose your smart speaker, it may accidentally record interactions and conversations that were heard. And with real people working behind the companies manning your tech, your personal data and information are subject to be heard by many ears.

Your Data, the Cloud, and Information Sharing

Claiming it as a method for improving their services, companies will keep recordings of the commands and audio that are produced or sent to the cloud. Not only do many store copies of your voice commands, but your cloud may hold even more data than that. When you begin syncing accounts and information, your information runs the risk of being copied or shared to your cloud. Without knowing it, you could be allowing a plethora of people easy access to your personal conversations and information. 

Smart Speakers: Quick Facts

As one of the most popular and fastest-growing technological gadgets in today's market, more than 118 million smart speakers reside in households all over the U.S; a number that grew more than 75% in just one year. It is estimated that nearly 25% of adults have access to a smart speaker and with more than 43 million Americans owning one or more smart speakers, security should always be a concern. Here are a few more smart speaker statistics:

  • Smart speakers are used almost equally among all age groups

  • Nearly half of all owners possess more than one smart speaker

  • More than half of smart speaker users are women

  • Roughly 40% of parents claim their children have access to a smart speaker, while 60% claim their child interacts with voice-activation assistance

  • 58% of parents believe their smart speaker privacy could be compromised

  • 65% of new users claim they do not know everything their device can do

4 Tips For Protecting Your Privacy 

There are ways to enjoy technology, while also protecting your privacy and personal security. While knowledge is certainly the first step to prevention, there are a few steps you can take to help minimize your risk of a breach to your security. While there are a variety of smart speaker types, made by a variety of brands and platforms, simple tips for safeguarding your privacy are available, and essential.

1. Check What's Using Your Data

Within the account settings of your smart speaker, you should be able to view which tasks it's performing, as well as which data it is transferring, sharing, or storing. It is important to know the details of the data that is being exchanged, to help limit the risk of privacy invasion and the theft of personal information. You may be able to limit or choose what your smart speaker has access to; thereby helping to secure your privacy.

2. Manage Your Device's Permissions

One of the first things you should do when receiving your smart speaker is to become familiar with every setting available to you. Go through every single option and opt for settings which will safeguard your personal information and your privacy. Choose what your speaker connects to, as well as how and when. When available, opt for wake up words, passwords, or PINs that are personal and strong. On some smart speakers, you may even be able to ensure it responds to your voice, and your voice only. Smart speakers may even use artificial intelligence and your history to create their own type of identity for you.

3. Keep Data Off the Cloud

Most smart speakers will automatically sync accounts or information to a type of cloud system that stores your information, but you can deny the speaker this permission within your privacy settings. Ensure your settings do not allow for recordings or information to be saved or shared through a cloud.

4. Turn Off the Microphone and Delete Voice Recordings

If you're worried about your smart speaker inadvertently listening in or having your voice recordings being accessed, you should search through your settings for a few options. Turning off the microphone is the best practice to make sure nothing is being recorded. You could also use your account settings to view current recordings and history of your recordings. This section of your privacy settings should be regularly checked for thoroughness. Delete these recordings and double check your settings for syncing information to any account or cloud.

 

Technology is a marvelous and wondrous thing to take advantage of. Innovation helps provide us with knowledge, convenience, connection, and more. But being aware of its drawbacks and disadvantages can help save you from the consequences and pain associated with breaches to your privacy and identity theft. Before enjoying everything your smart speaker has to offer, ensure your privacy is protected with the proper precautions.