New reports indicate that artificial intelligence (AI) "voice assistants" like Alexa (Amazon), Cortana (Microsoft), Siri (Apple), and Home (Google) are now being used by Big Tech to pull massive amounts of data about how people live, one of the reasons for which is to get people to buy more "smart" things.
For instance, when the owner of an Amazon Echo tells "Alexa" to turn off the "smart" lightbulbs because it's time to put the children to sleep, Amazon is notified both of the time and place when this occurred. Using this data, Amazon is then able to further populate a marketing profile for this particular user, marketing to him or her things like children's books containing nursery rhymes.
Since voice assistants are now being implemented into "smart" appliances like refrigerators, stoves, and washing machines, these, too, are being equipped to gather 24/7 data on what people eat, when they wash their clothes, and when they make meals, which Big Tech is using for targeted marketing purposes.
"You can learn the behaviors of a household based on their patterns," says Brad Russell, a researcher at Parks Associates Inc., a market research and consulting company, as quoted by Bloomberg.
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While many Americans have been led to believe that Alexa, Siri, and the others only respond to their respective "trigger" words for the purpose of performing commands, we now know that they're doing a whole lot more than that. We also know that the tech companies that run these AI systems are saving user data indefinitely, without consent.
According to Bloomberg, there doesn't appear to be any limits or restrictions on the data-collection activities of Amazon, Apple, Google, and Microsoft. And we only have our pathetic Congress to blame for thus far doing next to nothing to even attempt to protect the public against this massive invasion of privacy.
It's a similar situation to the so-called "smart" meters that have been forced upon most Americans against their consent, which actively collect and transmit data in much the same way as Alexa and Siri – and there's really nothing we can do to stop it at this point other than to pay the extra fee to keep our analog meters, or simply rip the "smart" versions off the walls and live without electricity.
In this case, nobody is yet being forced to have a "voice assistant" inside their homes. However, more and more everyday items and appliances are transitioning to "smart" capability, which means it's becoming increasingly more difficult to find "non-smart" items that simply do what they were designed to do without any involvement or interference from Big Tech or Big Brother.
"There isn't an implicit permission of, 'Go ahead and take all my data whenever [something] changes,'" says Martin Plaehn, CEO of a "smart home" systems firm known as Control4. "And we think if the world really knew that was going on, it would create a real kerfuffle."
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