Turns out, it’s quite a lot.
We’ve all kind of known that Alexa is always listening, and recording, but do we realize how much?
Quoting Sharon Nelson’s discussion of another report – Yes, Alexa Does Eavesdrop on You!
The author of the article listened to four years of his Alexa archive and found thousands of fragments of his life: spaghetti-timer requests, joking houseguests and random snippets of “Downton Abbey.” There were even sensitive conversations that somehow triggered Alexa’s “wake word” to start recording, including his family discussing medication and a friend conducting a business deal.
While none of this surprises me, it does remind me to wonder how many lawyers have an Alexa in their home or office while discussing client information? Do they know how much of that might get recorded and be available to Amazon? Are your clients going to be thrilled at that possibility?
But, that’s not all. Siri and Google Home also record and store conversations, all in the name of continuous improvement of the AI. Because that’s what IOT devices need to do to continue learning about their customers. But how much do they really need to know? Is it enough to learn to identify voice commands better, or do they need to track much, much more?
Because they all appear to be tracking, and storing that information. Everything from lights switching on or off, movements in the house, garage door openers, car starters, and even what music you listen to or what you watch, is connected to IOT devices, and they aren’t bashful about putting that information together.
Later in Sharon’s article:
After quizzing these companies about data practices, the author learned that most are sharing what’s happening in his home with Amazon, too. Our data is the price of entry for devices that want to integrate with Alexa. Amazon’s not only eavesdropping — it’s tracking (potentially) everything happening in your home.
So, again, I start to wonder about how this might get misused. Will I have to agree to let my employer have access to this data to “prove” I’m working from home during the hours I say I am? What kind of confidential information might a lawyer working at home be making available? If they have Google Home or Siri read their messages, how much of that is being tracked? Does your Ring camera have a record of who has been meeting you at your home office? Does Google Maps know where they have gone to conduct business?
Will a judge have the ability to subpoena this information at any time, for any reason? Of course.
Now I know that most people with all of these devices will simply argue that they have nothing to hide, they’re not breaking any laws or doing anything scandalous, so they don’t really care if their smart home, and all the companies who make those IOT products know that much. If you truly feel that way, I’m not going to sit here and argue with you about that.
But, if you’re a lawyer you have a responsibility to protect your client’s information. How much of it might be leaking out of your control through IOT devices?
And if you’re dealing with any kind of medical information, again, you may be leaking information that isn’t your’s to divulge. You may not care that Amazon or Google know that you’ve been researching and calling around for mental health services for a loved one, but they might not be thrilled to know that data is available in an archive that is accessible to anyone who can hack your Amazon account.
The simple fact is, we’ve begun to get used to having these devices, including our cell phones, track us and know a ton about us. Most of the time, it might not be a huge deal, but occasionally it really is. We all need privacy from time to time, but as we continue to invite tech companies into our lives, we erode the places where we can actually have any. This is going to end up with people getting hurt, having private information about them leaked out in ways that will not just be embarrassing, but dangerous.