Amazon's useless "transparency reports" won't disclose whether they're handing data from always-on Alexa mics to governments


#1

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/01/18/nunya-bizness.html


#2

Does it stay on even when unplugged? My sister gave me one for Xmas. I only turn it on to play jeopardy and listen to music while washing dishes.


#3

The best part? You choose to purchase it and own it all on your own! Perfect!


#4

See this is why I don’t buy such devices. I only use Siri to set timers when I’m cooking. I don’t really see the importance of having the ability to talk to a machine beyond keeping my hands from dirtying a timer or whatever.


#5

Likewise, the only voice enabled thing i use is the voice search for Google and quite sparingly and i have it set to work only when i manually access it. Beyond that i’ve wholly avoided voice assistants and the like or IOT devices. I’m also not looking forward to buying a new TV in a couple years time because i really do not want a smart tv tracking my viewing habits or whatever.


#6

I want to smash one with my BFH.

Summary

BFH = Big Fucking Hammer


#7

I did not choose Dongbot 5000, it chose me :neutral_face:


#8

Hal on the top or Hal as the O in Amazon; pick one, not both.


#9

Amazon’s useless “transparency reports” won’t disclose whether they’re handing data from always-on Alexa mics to governments

I think the conclusion is easy to draw…


#10

The answer is yes.


#11


#12

No one should own an Echo. Certainly not the visually impaired or those aging in place.


#13

No way am I going to wiretap myself. Convenience be damned.


#14

Hey, maybe that NSA agent knows a really damn good pancake recipe. I’m not going to pass up good pancakes.


#15

Just FYI, while I am sure that these devices leak plenty of information, it is not fair to say that they are “always listening”.

The device runs a listener locally (something like CMU Sphinx) which does a half decent job at picking out wake words (as long as they are at least three syllables long) and at that point the device starts streaming audio up to the cloud.

But with the above said, you probably don’t want one of these in your house. They don’t typically listen continuously, but it is a closed source device that is one update away from doing just that, or hey maybe with the right law enforcement request they could be convinced to do that right now.

I would like it if Amazon decided to give more than half-hearted Open Source access to the Alexa APIs. I built a talking fish with AlexaPi but to use it you need to set up an AWS developer account which makes the sale of Open Source Alexa clients non-viable.


#16

It’s been shown various times among multiple devices and companies that these always-on devices and the companies that run them can’t be trusted. They tell you that they aren’t always listening but do you know for sure? Do you?

I can dig up more examples if need be


#17

Yes, you can be sure that these devices are not “always listening”. Handling a constant stream of audio from thousands (or millions) of devices is expensive – that’s why these devices have wake words.

Also, it is quite easy to check if a device is sending data. Perhaps Etherape and Wireshark are a bit much for everyday users, but you can at least look at the blinking lights on your router.


#18

This reminds me of that good old sub-genre of CIA Alexa vids.

Which in turn reminds me of:


#19

This has me scratching my head. Does Amazon sell products that are illegal? What is law enforcement requesting here? What does any law enforcement agency have to do with what we purchase online?


#20

I don’t think selling bongs are illegal, because technically, you can sell them to smoke tobacco, which is perfectly legal to do.