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Kagan: Why Google Home and Amazon Alexa can invade your privacy

You love the idea of buying an AI and IoT device like Google Home or Amazon Echo for the holiday season. You want to speak and have it deliver a song or weather report or sports score. You’ve seen it. You’ve used it. Sounds great, right? However, did you ever think about the other side of this coin? Loss of privacy.

Here is a nagging question we all must wrestle with: As a technological innovation increases, how to we protect our personal information and privacy? AI and IoT devices like Google Home, Amazon Echo, Microsoft Cortana, Apple HomePod and countless others that are popping up in the marketplace are simply incredible.

However, that innovation comes at a high price. Loss of privacy. So, how can you protect your privacy and personal information in this open world? This is difficult. Companies don’t seem to put much effort into protecting the privacy of users, which does not make sense since they too are users of their own technology.

Are Amazon, Google and Facebook each a monopoly?

I remember when this question was asked of Facebook years ago. Their response, if you are concerned then just don’t use us. That sounds good, except where else can users go? Facebook is the sole provider. They are becoming a monopoly in their space.

Increasingly, many of these similar companies are the only place to go in their space. If that’s the case, and if they don’t care about protecting the user, what can we do?

Could this be the first area where the U.S. government focuses on their question of whether these companies are a monopoly and if so, whether to break them up?

Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Facebook can invade privacy with AI and IoT

When it comes to your privacy, first you must decide if it’s worth giving it up just to have one of these artificial intelligence devices sitting on your countertop playing your favorite songs or telling you the weather while listening to everything that goes on in your home.

I understand the desire for these technologies. My kids have and use this technology and when I visit them, I love to play with it. It’s cool. It captures the imagination. The fact that the marketing campaigns always talk about this excitement and never warn about the loss of privacy also keeps this other side hidden from the public.

However, this is a real and growing threat today and tomorrow. If you are OK with an always-on microphone connected to a company, potentially listening to everything that goes on in your home, they you can stop reading. If you care, then we as a society must come up with a solution to this perplexing problem.

Hackers can break into AI and IoT devices like Home, Echo, Cortana

You see the problem is not just the company that owns the technology like Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook, but there are other risks as well. Hackers can break in and listen to what’s going on in the privacy of your home as well. They can hack in through a variety of ways like your Wi-Fi connections or the devices that use it.

Plus, what if several years in the future you are involved in a law suit. What if the other side could simply pull up the information about everything you said, you typed, you watched, you surfed, from the AI, IoT and Cloud you use?

That’s a real risk that no one is talking about. Even if no one uses your personal information about you today, what about tomorrow?

And what if tomorrow, these companies decide they do want to listen and learn about their users. They may come at this from a marketing perspective, but the problem is, once this egg is cracked, it can never be put back in the shell. Who will be tapping into this wealth of information? Marketers, the government, bad guys? Are you getting my point?

Smartphones Increasingly invade privacy as AI and IoT grows

And the problem is not just with these new AI devices, but with our smartphones as well. They track every step we take, every phone call we place, every app we use, every place we go, everything. And they have been doing this for quite a long time already. Yet, we won’t put down the smartphone, will we?

With AI and IoT we can expect this to only get worse. Yet, no one is talking about this loss of privacy. So, don’t be deceived and believe you are living in a world of privacy. You are not. No one is. Not anymore. We are all living in lives that are as open as the front page of the local newspaper.

Even if no one is listening today, all it would take to start is a software update. Something these devices download automatically. Even if the makers of these devices don’t listen to every word you say today, what about tomorrow? Isn’t this something we should be thinking about and protecting ourselves from?

ABOUT AUTHOR

Jeff Kagan
Jeff Kaganhttp://jeffkagan.com
Jeff is a RCR Wireless News Columnist, Industry Analyst, Key Opinion Leader and Influencer. He shares his colorful perspectives and opinions on the companies and technologies that are transforming the industry he has followed for 35 years. Jeff follows wireless, wire line telecom, Internet, Pay-TV, cable TV, AI, IoT, Digital Healthcare, Cloud, Mobile Pay, Smart cities, Smart Homes and more.

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