Any new piece of technology often reveals its benefits far before the downsides become apparent.
A recent Gallup poll showed that 22% of Americans use devices such as Amazon Echo or Google Assistant in their homes. This is a remarkably quick uptake given the Echo only launched widely in America in June, 2015 with Google Assistant coming the following May.
Not surprisingly, privacy issues have plagued these devices from the start, especially given the very premise of the invention requires it to listen into — and presumably record and store — your conversations. After all, how else will it know what you want from it?
A NY Times report from late March highlights a particularly worrying patent application from Google in which such a device could — quite hypothetically, of course — detect a Will Smith t-shirt “on a floor of the user’s closet”, clock this point of interest, and later show “a movie recommendation that displays, ‘You seem to like Will Smith. His new movie is playing in a theater near you.’” Eek!
It goes without saying that this is creepy. Plus, Will Smith’s films vary wildly in regards to quality.
In 2016 a group of students from University of California, Berkeley, and Georgetown University highlighted an early concern, by hiding Siri commands in white noise, which were used to manipulate a command-based speaker/recorder.
This will confuse the algorithm