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    • It seems that as more people are realizing the trade offs between convenience vs surveillance with digital assistants these devices are becoming more private than even just a year ago. People are getting concerned and manufacturers are starting to listen and build in more privacy tools.

      Fundamentally, in order for Alexa to get better at understanding voice commands and acquire new skills it has to learn from real-world data. In certain cases the actual voice recordings has to be used to transcribe and compare accuracy.

      For a long time I've been holding out on getting Alexa specifically because I worry about my privacy. But a few months back I decided to get it for convenience while cooking in the kitchen. I felt that the conversations I have in the kitchen are very benign and even if recorded and heard back by another human, wouldn't really invade my privacy:

      Now it seems like Alexa is adding abilities to delete any recordings on the day and newer devices are even shipping with physical blinds for the camera. So the trend is moving in the right direction, though I wish it was faster...

    • I think the biggest damage comes for each of us as free individuals in society, not necessarily from those intending to make money off off the big data we all generate daily, but when it becomes intentionally systematic and covert, such as the unveiled one of Cambridge analytics (but who knows how many will never be detected). If someone stole either a penny, or a minute of our life, which one would hurt most? Imagine them doing it at internet scale, what they get in return, while the masses barely perceive the damage until too late. Those clearly evil methods, in my opinion, have a much more damaging impact on society and should be constantly hunted down and eradicated where found, even outlawed even if just as a formality at first. But of course that's easier said than done, formulating laws and targeting something so dynamic, when highest political forums barely have the wherewithal to distinguish how a internet business model such as advertising works and it takes years to make a law.

    • I'm not too worried about Alexa eavesdropping on me but I am worried about other forms of data. The reason I don't fear Alexa is the stuff I talk about in my kitchen is harmless.

      My location may not be so harmless, however, because it's really convenient to know when it's best to break into my house. When Strava shows that I just did a hike out of the country, that sounds like a good time to break in.

      It gets more sinister on YouTube. The AI is really good at figuring out if I am interested in conspiracy videos. If I start watching flat earth videos, it's a very good bet I'd also like anti-vaccination videos and conspiracies about politicians, so that's what YouTube will recommend, which is why it's so good a radicalizing and achieving such widespread adoption of the flat earth theory.

      Google stores our search history, Amazon our purchasing history. If they get hacked and our search histories are made public, some people may not like their families finding out that they buy kinky sex toys from Amazon.

    • I wonder if they have an Alexa for old people unfamiliar with technology and touch screens.. imho it would be of much greater aid for some old people than for me at this time. Or if they offer based on this technology a kind of emergency service in case someone has a sudden health issue and they can't push buttons or type, but could say a key word or phrase.

    • Alexa skills can already do a lot of these voice activated actions. For example, I can ask Alexa to find my phone or call someone directly. With some additional accessories it can even turn on and off lights, outlets, garage doors and more.

      What’s interesting is that elderly people can actually have fun interacting with Alexa by asking questions about history, tell jokes and just remind them of something.

      Since Alexa keeps improving overtime and over the air with new skills, I don’t really see a need for a special device for elderly. It is getting cheaper and better every day.

    • Sounds really perfect to me too! I will continue to think about how to do it. I just need to teach my eighty five year old dad some English, but that's not happening soon. Or get a multilingual Alexa when it will become available. Ability of a device to perform voice commands in their case would be a godsend, when it takes an hour over the phone (and multiple sessions some times) to untangle something that was touched by accident on their tablet.

    • don’t worry or start being silent. Very soon walls, floors and furniture will start hearing you.

      No , I’m not kidding.

    • Yes, to a point. I mean, I use the internet, I shop online, I use Facebook Messenger and text to talk with my kids, I use Google Maps, and Google Search to find all sorts of stuff. I understand that my data is being collected and I do not have complete privacy. But I choose to take that risk for specific conveniences. One thing I found especially disturbing from these articles was that there has been at least one instance of recordings from a home device being subpoenad. Not that I'm concerned that I'm discussing illegal things, but how is that not the same as an unauthorized wiretap? If I get an Alexa so I can tell it to play music instead of using my phone and my little bluetooth speaker, does that mean I want it to record random snippets of my conversation and give away my rights to have a totally private conversation in my own home? It's the broader question of just how far we want to go to make every aspect of our lives available to anyone that seems creepy. Where will we stop?

    • The onus should not be on the consumer, in my opinion. If they need to record I think they should auto-delete after 24 hours. Better still, if they need to improve the voice recognition, allow people to opt-in and have the auto recording be optional. Maybe give people a discount if they are willing to participate. I'm sure they are smart enough to figure out a way to do this.

    • I agree Richard. The current default is to commoditize our experiences wherever they may be found whether we implicitly share them or not. This is why I am a big fan of what Tim Berners Lee is trying to pull off with the Solid Framework. By default our experiences should be locked down and only shared through specific permissions granted. This idea of permissions granted as a collective through the process of logging into a social network, browsing, or searching the web has to change or it is only going to get worse.

    • The metadata collected on the trivialities of your life can be food for both bad actors and neutral actors to influence what you experience. The 2016 election was a perfect example of weaponizing metadata to influence a connected use base.

    • I admire you for looking into this and share your concern. I just think that the services which protect your privacy to a greater degree usually cannot give as good a user experience, and most of us choose the experience.

      For example, Duck Duck Go’s search engine gives better privacy than Google, but 99% of people who try it go back to Google.

      Imo, it’s kind of like sugar in cereal. As long as we buy the stuff with sugar, they’ll keep making it.

    • I agree with you on Duck Duck Go. I have been trying to support it in my Brave browser but it certainly doesn't hit the mark on search. Convenience or Clarity. A hard one to fight at times, unfortunately.

    • I just think that the services which protect your privacy to a greater degree usually cannot give as good a user experience, and most of us choose the experience.

      This might be true, but I don't see why it is necessarily the case.

    • I believe it is largely due to the belief that this is the only way for providers to maximize their shareholder interests. Why is clickbait even a thing? Convenience is turning out to be a commodity in of itself because it demonstrates value (attention/revenue) to the organization. Sure would love to see this pivot to building for user value first. But I do remain hopeful!!

    • Behind "Iron Curtain" surveillance was prevalent, it isn't capitalism's invention or internet's problem. Sure one had nothing to worry about as long as they didn't say the wrong things, right? For the most part. Yet, even when they didn't, a certain someone could have planted evidence and make false accusations to gain the upper hand in obtaining what they wanted from any person. Today, all these controls for privacy being put in place have an underlying weakness, there is no enforcing way from the users nor elsewhere. Nor can they be comprehensive to what is coming in the future. Best way to secure something is the principle of least privilege, and reason why blacklisting never works long term.

    • You hit the nail on head. Users lack control. Have we really every been in control even before technology. Only a select few but why am I so mule headed to believe we will find a way to at least claim partial control. Are you familiar with SingularityNet.io? I read (listened) to the whitepaper https://public.singularitynet.io/whitepaper.pdf. Seems a bit Utopian at first glance but I really do feel there a democratic principals at play here. Out of all the tech I am researching Decentralizing AI seems to be the one with the most teeth to give the reins to the users.