Alexa can see what you are doing in your home

Alexa Echo Show
Image by Pojo Jozef Polc

When you have been away for a couple of weeks and you begin to sift through the news there is a sense that there hasn’t been much going on, until you come across something that stops you dead. It concerns Alexa.

The news in telecoms and tech has not changed the world greatly in the last two weeks. Even the ITU event did not come up with anything particularly new (at least in the main sessions). Operators agreed that they should be part of the next step of the digital transformation (although they will be digital pipes up until 2025). 5G may even help that. Regulators, someone said, should be part of the innovation cycle. The term ‘sand box’ was used.

The term ‘sand box’ has been around since the dawn of digital time. It means throw everyone into a room together. And it is normally used when no-one can come up with, or agree, the best way forward.

Then there was this throw away headline from Business Insider – ‘Amazon’s new Alexa feature can visually identify objects’.

Wait, what?

The little snippet in the email that leads you to click and read the whole article has this: ‘Alexa, what am I holding?’

You can stop laughing at any time.

According to Amazon they introduced this feature to help visually impaired people identify groceries and enable them to order what they need.

So, that’s good.

It seems extraordinary at a time when privacy is a massive battleground, to launch something that can see what you are doing in your home.

For months now, we have seen conspiracy theories (or are they?) come and go about how much of our conversations and interactions and transactions are being tracked. The answer seems to be – conspiracy theory or no – loads. And, of course, the new device will be recommending products left, right and centre and selling the data as much as it always has done.

To admit that the new version of the gadget that already eavesdrops on you can now see into your home will not help the argument that using data to make people’s lives better is a good thing. Not one little bit.

We have to assume that Amazon will not be the sole purveyor of said spyware and that Google will probably be next.

Alexa, what are you up to – and what’s next?

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