It has been said that the term “eavesdropper” evolved from those who stood under the eaves of a house to surreptitiously listen to the goings-on inside. In this age of digital advancement, we now invite eavesdroppers into our homes and offices in the form of artificially intelligent digital assistants. While devices like the Google Home, Apple’s Siri and the Amazon Echo offer great convenience and enjoyment, there are privacy trade-offs; and some are less obvious than others.
Eric C. Boughman
Article Written for: Daily Business Review
Article Written for: Financial Advisor Magazine
Devices like Amazon Echo, Google Home and the forthcoming Apple Homepod are bringing artificial intelligence to the masses. They offer the potential to increase our efficiency by managing our calendar, contacts and to-do lists. With a simple verbal command, they can bring us customized news briefings and stock market reports and even brighten us up with music and jokes. I am a fan, but if you decide to invite one of these devices into your daily routine, you need to understand the privacy implications.
Article Written for: Law360.com
Americans place a high value on privacy, dating back to the foundation of our country and the Fourth Amendment right to be secure in our “persons, houses, papers, and effects.” Interestingly, the word “privacy” is not found in the Fourth Amendment. Over time and through legal battles, however, courts have come to recognize a fundamental “zone of privacy” contained within the “penumbra” of rights protected by the Constitution. Now, with advances in artificially intelligent devices and machine learning, individuals willingly sacrifice that hard-fought privacy in return for the many conveniences offered by “smart” digital assistants.
Article Written for: Forbes.com
If you have an Amazon Echo, try this: Say, "Alexa, tell me a joke," but do it very quickly so that you finish the request before Alexa "wakes up" (indicated on the Echo by the blue light). Did you notice that Alexa dutifully complied, seemingly catching the request before she (it?) was awake? There is a simple explanation for this: Alexa (like other artificially intelligent digital assistants) is always listening. Indeed, Alexa starts recording "a fraction of a second” before the wake word. Google Home listens to snippets of conversations to detect the "hotword."