There are fresh concerns Amazon and Google devices might be listening to people and have the potential for an “Orwellian future” where they “eavesdrop on everything”.
Amazon and Google both have digital assistants – named the Echo and Home respectively - that allow for always-on-call assistance around the home.
But a report by the US Consumer Watchdog claims patents filed by Amazon and Google with the US Patent and Trademark Officers reveals a “vision for an Orwellian future”.
Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy and Technology Project director John Simpson said “Google and Amazon executives” want customers “to think that Google Home and Amazon Echo are there to help you out at the sound of your voice”.
“In fact, they’re all about snooping on you and your family in your home and gathering as much information on your activities as possible,” he said.
“Instead of charging you for these surveillance devices, Google and Amazon should be paying you to take one into your home.”
On its website, the watchdog claims through findings from the patent applications that the digital assistants can be “awake when users think they aren’t listening”.
Both devices have “wakewords” – for the Echo it’s, “Alexa”, and for the Home it’s, “OK, Google”.
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The Consumer Watchdog claims Amazon has “envisioned” Alexa using the information to build profiles on anyone in the room to sell them goods by identifying statements of interests such as, “I love skiing”.
It also claims Google’s patent application describes using a smart home system to monitor and control screen time, hygiene habits, meal and travel schedules.
An Amazon spokesperson told CBS, “We do not use customers' voice recordings for targeted advertising… Patents take multiple years to receive and do not necessarily reflect current developments to products and services.”
A Google rep said the Consumer Watchdog’s claims are “unfounded”.