What it is: With Google, Amazon, and Apple offering smart speakers, be aware of the security and privacy issues of using them.
Smart speakers work by listening for voice commands and then responding. This lets you get weather forecasts, traffic alerts, and sports scores just by asking for them. Smart speakers essentially represent a new hands-free, voice-activated user interface for computing.
The huge danger with smart speakers is that they have the capability to listen at any time. Just as webcams on computers have the potential to video you at any time, so can smart speakers hear anything at any time. While webcams are usually off, hackers can turn them on and spy on users. That means hackers can also turn on smart speakers and listen to conversations in the room without the smart speaker (or the owner) knowing this.
Every form fo technology brings with it dangers. Smartphones allow companies to track your every movement, and webcams allow hackers to spy on you. Now smart speakers will allow hackers to listen. While the threat is still low, the threat is there nonetheless. That means the danger of smart speaker hacking is real.
So what can you do about it? The key is to weight the benefits vs. the risks. If you get more benefits from a smart speaker than the risk of being spied on, then buy and use a smart speaker. If you don’t get any benefits from a smart speaker, then it makes little sense to buy and use one. The trouble is you won’t know whether you can benefit from a smart speaker or not unless you buy one.
As a general rule, don’t put the smart speaker someplace where you’ll be embarrassed for someone to hear. Think of a smart speaker as a stranger sitting in your house. If you wouldn’t be comfortable with a stranger listening to your conversation, then don’t put a smart speaker in that room.
In general, put a smart speaker in a safe, neutral location such as a living room or den where you might go to watch TV or listen to music rather than chat on a regular basis. For extra security, consider just unplugging the smart speaker occasionally when you want to speak in private to someone.
Smart speakers can be hacked and they will be hacked. Whether any9one wants to hear your particular conversation is doubtful, but just as hackers can spy on people through webcams, they will listen on conversations through smart speakers. Just decide where to put a smart speaker and be aware of its presence at all times. Eventually it will be easy to ignore a smart speaker, just like it’s easy to ignorer a webcam built-in to a computer, but if you value your privacy, don’t do this.
Maintain awareness of your smart speaker at all times if security is important to you. Smart speakers have a place in the home, but probably not in an office conference room. All devices can compromise your security and privacy in some way. The question is whether the tradeoffs are worth it.