Are your devices listening to you?

Ki James
Ki James
September 23rd, 2021

If you own a smartphone, Google Home, Amazon Alexa, or laptop, you are near a device that listens for as long as you’re in its vicinity. For the vast majority of people, this is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. But is this a problem?

What does it mean to be “listened”?

Before we really talk about whether or not your devices are spying on you, we need to lay some ground rules.

It’s absolutely indisputable that any device that can turn on when given a vocal command is constantly recording your voice, processing it, and then deciding what to do with it.

However, it goes much further than that. Your devices send this information away to a group of engineers who listen to it, categorize it, and use it to improve their algorithms. This claim is verified by company representatives, despite the fact that some people deny it.

What are they doing with this information?

It’s one thing to accept that the most private moments of your life are being exported to be tabulated by an anonymous code monkey, but we don’t even know that that’s all that’s happening. Google and Amazon will both swear up and down that they aren’t abusing this information, but why do they even have access to it?

Just this August, Apple announced that it will be working with law enforcement to report offenders for being in possession of abuse content. This may not seem bad, but the precedent of a tech company colluding with a government to use the massive volume of information it has on each of its users to punish its citizens is terrifying.

It doesn't take much imagination to see all the ways this could turn into a disaster. With the direction things seem to be moving, it’s a wonder why so many people volunteer to have their house bugged.

What can be done to stop this?

Google Homes, Alexas, your smartphones, and even your Laptops should all have settings buried somewhere to turn off the microphone. There’s no guarantee that this will be effective though, and so the only sure way to keep them from spying on you is to not own these products.

While smartphones are basically a necessity, you can limit the severity of the problem by keeping your phone in a place that’s hard to hear out of.

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