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New patent suggests Amazon Alexa could start listening all the time

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Amazon’s Alexa device may soon face another setback, thanks to a new patent reportedly filed by Amazon itself. If approved, Amazon will enable Alexa devices to start listening to conversations even before its “wake word” is said by anyone.

The new patent has raised concerns over privacy issues since it will, by default, make Alexa always listen to conversations so much so that it will immediately be activated once the wake word is uttered. Previously, Amazon said Alexa won’t start functioning unless a user says the wake word first.

With the new patent, it doesn’t matter if a user says the wake word first or at the end of a statement. Amazon currently set the default wake word as either “Alexa”, “Computer” or “Echo”. This is the same process employed by Google and Apple which have similar technology enabled to their virtual assistant services.

Amazon filed the new patent early this year and it is currently listed in public at the USPTO website. The new patent states that”

“A new user may not always structure a spoken command in the form of a wake word followed by a command. Instead, a user may include the command before the wake, as in normal statements….While such phrasings may be natural for a user, current speech processing systems are not configured to handle commands that are not preceded by a wake word.”

Harmless as it may seem – investigations, however, have revealed that this process is flawed as some “unintentional” snippets of conversation were still being recorded when Alexa mistakes another sound for a “wake word.” The recording is even made without a human near the device.

Even worse, is the fact that snippets of a user’s friends, families and children were found to have been recorded despite the absence of a clear or legitimate wake word being uttered. In addition, these recordings were found to have happened during the time when there was no one in the house.

As of this writing, Amazon has declined to comment on the said flaw.

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