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Amazon Echo Scandal: How To Keep Your Conversations Private Having a Smart Speaker

This is perhaps one of the biggest fears that people are starting to have in an age where technology is getting more and more involved in our everyday lives: having your conversation recorded without you knowing about it. In a world where almost all of our everyday devices have both a microphone and cameras that can be hacked into without our knowing, keeping ourselves safe is relevant.

This is the case with most smart speaker devices, and a scandal which involved Amazon Echo caused the latest scare wave. Today we will be talking about the story behind the rise in panic levels, and we will work on giving you a list of things that you can do to make sure that your conversations are kept as private as possible, without having to throw out your smart speaker device out of fear.

What happened

This all started back when a family coming from Portland, Ohio reported that their Amazon Echo Dot recorded their conversation without them knowing. The discussion was then sent to a family member. So how did this happen exactly?

The family in Portland was having a private conversation when this took place. The Echo Dot wrongfully assumed that one of the words that were uttered in the discussion was “Alexa.” After it assumed the wake word was uttered, the device started to listen to the conversation going on. One of the words uttered in the private conversation was mistaken for the “send message” command. After that happened, the Echo Dot started to record the conversation going on.

The next thing that happened was the fact that the machine mistook another word uttered after a long pause to be the name of a contact. The whole recording was sent to that contact name. Happily enough, the contact name turned out to be an acquaintance of the family, and the conversation that went on was covering mundane topics.

This is not an excuse for the problem as a whole. Yes, nothing terrible got leaked, and nobody got hurt, but this does not mean that this glitch should be overlooked in any way shape or form. And people worldwide took this incident as a sign that something needs to be done. Until this problem gets fixed, people need to take precautions to ensure that their private conversations remain private.

What you can do to prevent this

The incident that we briefly talked about is a clear example of the mistrust that most users would start to have in using the smart speaker in their homes. The security and privacy implications of these devices are a touchy subject for most users. In the case of the Portland family, the recording only got in the hands of an acquaintance. However, what if a hacker took the recording? What if the information that you talked about was a very private subject and you needed to make sure that you were safe? We have some tips to help you with that.

Turn off the mic

The first step in making sure that private conversations are not recorded is to push the physical button that deactivates the microphone. In the case of the Echo, the button will turn red once pushed. Use this to be extra safe that the device is not recording you when you are having a private conversation on a sensitive subject. Make sure that you turn the mic back on after you are done with your discussion since leaving it permanently off defeats the purpose of the device in the first place.

Kill the camera

More and more people have taken to covering their camera on their laptops to make sure that they are safe in the case that someone might hack onto their laptops and start to record them. Hell, even Facebook’s CEO has admitted to doing it. Now, how can you apply this to your smart speaker? Well, very easily, turn the camera around to face the wall when something more private is going on in your home. Make sure to set the security camera back around when you leave your house.

Check online

Big tech companies now have implemented ways in which they can make users learn how to interact with their devices without having to go through user manuals. However, the problem with this is that more often than not we are not aware entirely of what our devices can and cannot do. This is why you should start to read up online about all the things that your smart speaker can do. Best to be prepared than to face the consequences.

Get rid of the signal connection

If you are using devices which can record you on a daily basis and you are carrying them around, then we recommend that you get a “Faraway bag.” This is a timeout bag that blocks electromagnetic signals from being received by your phone or other devices. Use it when you want to know that your chances of being spied on are absolutely zero. Now, you will not get any calls while your phone is in that bag so you should know that as well.

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