Just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean somebody's not listening

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Have you ever been talking about a certain product or subject, and then had an advertisement for it pop up next time you go online?

Maybe it was just a coincidence. Maybe you just forgot doing a search for it earlier.

Then again ...

Amazon was the pioneer in smart speakers, to the point that the first word many babies speak is “Alexa ...”

The company advertises that Alexa “lives in the cloud and it always getting smarter.”

But it turns out, some of the computer power that makes that possible is biological, living in the brains of workers in places like Boston, Costa Rica, India and Romania.

Amazon’s software has a way of multiplying from room to room, taking over televisions, tablets, security cameras, doorbells, thermostats and power outlets, to the point disruption in internet access creates a crisis in the homes of early adopters.

Echo speakers are listening to for their name constantly to know when to do to work, and when they hear it — and perhaps even when they don’t — the recordings are transcribed, annotated, reviewed by humans and fed back into the softwar to make it more responsive and less frustrating next time you ask it for help.

And that’s just Amazon, with Google, Apple and others working to catch up and provide the next generation of devices.

Like so much modern technolo, smart speakers ask us to trade something — shopping preferences, habits and privacy — in exchange for convenience.

As time goes on and systems become more sophisticated and ingrained into our everyday lives, it will become harder and harder to disconnect.

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