It’s an incredibly weird day when I find myself defending Google, or voice assistants, but here we are. I’ve seen it mentioned in several places that a Google Voice Assistant contractor is “blowing the whistle” on inadvertent recordings made by google devices. I want to note first that I have a very good friend, whom I trust, that works in the GoogVA/Siri/Alexa sphere, in case you consider that a conflict of interest.
I am entirely unimpressed by moral panic about Google Voice Assistant or Alexa “recordings.” People chose to put a live mic in their house. Demonizing Goog, Amzn, etc is overly simplistic.
We need to make sure it’s an informed choice, but short of cigarette pack warnings on the devices and audible beeps every 30 seconds, there’s not more we can do, considering they BOUGHT a microphone and networked it.
And I say this as someone who will never, ever own one.
Part of this is my outrage fatigue.
But we need to allow consumers to make choices and not feel like fools when we object to some aspect or other. There’s always a tension between convenience and security.
Give people info, but allow them to negotiate it themselves.
And to be sure, Google isn’t running sentiment analysis on the snippets of you ranting about Aunt Petunia that accidentally get caught up and farmed to humans. They don’t CARE. I promise. All they want to know is whether the Voice Assistant misfired.
I reserve my ire for certain circumstances:
1. Poorly protected recordings
2. Hidden microphones in devices that aren’t made clear, or other purposeful deception.
3. Voice Assistant contractors that provide access to recordings to outside parties trying to rabble rouse about the recordings. This person is literally the reason that the recordings inside people’s homes reached an unauthorized party. The consumer purchased a networked microphone and placed it in their home with the understanding that Google could hear and respond – their privacy was violated by the inside threat that provided access to outside parties.