Amazon and Google don’t like you calling their smart speakers “surveillance devices”


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Amazon and Google are currently “battling” the negative image of their brands of smart home assistants being surveillance devices.

It could be an uphill battle that they will find very difficult to win – even if nobody should underestimate the power of these tech giants to eventually sway public opinion their way.

This latest call to arms comes after revelations out of the Netherlands that Google lets third-parties access personal information – including home addresses – of users recorded by Google Home smart speakers devices.

Google has admitted as much but blamed a subcontractor for “leaking confidential Dutch audio data” – while at the same time defending the overall policies.

Google said it was necessary to give third-parties recordings from the devices – installed in people's homes and “always listening” – to improve recognition of “local speech and accents.”

But this kind of defense – and the pledges that the company actually works to protect user privacy – may be too little, too late.

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The article said that Amazon's Alexa has also been up against the same negative perception of basically being an eavesdropping device and that customers are beginning to question the wisdom of having something of the kind installed in their homes.

At least, that's according to an NPR poll that showed growing reluctance, based on privacy and security concerns, to buy these devices.

Both owners and those who do not have smart speakers in their homes have shown an equally growing concern, compared to a survey done two years ago.

During this decade, internet users have had the chance to learn about the extent of both government surveillance and invasive, revenue-driven policies of tech giants, and how that hurts their privacy.

Yet, up until now, there has been little evidence that any of those revelations would turn the tide and make the average user significantly more privacy-aware in their decisions.

But a shift in perception has been taking place. Perhaps the best proof is Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg effectively declared privacy dead in 2010 – only to earlier this year make a declarative “pivot to privacy.”

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Didi Rankovic

Didi Rankovich is an experienced online journalist, editor, and translator, with a career spanning over ten years writing for major a English-language website in Serbia, and previously working as translator for international organizations and peacekeepers in the Balkans. Rankovich is passionate about free and open source tech and is a head contributor for Reclaim The Net, focusing on lead stories. [email protected]