USA - Strangers Eavesdrop Your Home

Arno Froese

Would you let a stranger eavesdrop in your home and keep the recordings? For most people, the answer is, “Are you crazy?”

Yet that’s essentially what Amazon has been doing to millions of us with its assistant Alexa in microphone-equipped Echo speakers. And it’s hardly alone: Bugging our homes is Silicon Valley’s next frontier.

Many smart-speaker owners don’t realize it, but Amazon keeps a copy of everything Alexa records after it hears its name. Apple’s Siri, and until recently Google’s Assistant, by default also keep recordings to help train their artificial intelligences.

Let’s not repeat the mistakes of Facebook in our smart homes. Any personal data that’s collected can and will be used against us. An obvious place to begin: Alexa, stop recording us.

Alexa keeps a record of what it hears every time an Echo speaker activates. It’s supposed to record only with a “wake word”—“Alexa!”—but anyone with one of these devices knows they go rogue. I counted dozens of times when mine recorded without a legitimate prompt.

Saving our voices is not just an Amazon phenomenon. Apple, which is much more privacy-minded in other aspects of the smart home, also keeps copies of conversations with Siri. Apple says voice data is assigned a “random identifier and is not linked to individuals”—but exactly how anonymous can a recording of your voice be? I don’t understand why Apple doesn’t give us the ability to say not to store our recordings.

Inspired by what I found in my Alexa voice archive, I wondered: What other activities in my smart home are tech companies recording?

I found enough personal data to make even the East German secret police blush.

Amazon acknowledges it collects data about third-party devices even when you don’t use Alexa to operate them. It says Alexa needs to know the “state” of your devices “to enable a great smart home experience.” But keeping a record of this data is more useful to them than to us. (A feature called “hunches” lets you know when a connected device isn’t in its usual state, such as a door that’s not locked at bedtime, but I’ve never found it helpful.) You can tell Amazon to delete everything it has learned about your home, but you can’t look at it or stop Amazon from continuing to collect it.

Think of “Downton Abbey”: In those days, rich families could have human helpers who were using their intelligence to observe and learn their habits, and make their lives easier. Breakfast was always served exactly at the specified time. But the residents knew to be careful about what they let the staff see and hear.

Fast-forward to today. We haven’t come to terms that we’re filling our homes with even nosier digital helpers. Said Goodman: “We don’t think of Alexa or the Nest quite that way, but we should.”, 6 May 2019

Arno's commentary

Each new report, investigation, and analysis in the field of communication science reveals possibilities previously unknown. Only a few decades ago, we depended on hard-wired telephones, fax machines, and telex machines; from a technological standpoint, that is ancient history.

So, the question is: where will it lead? The creation of a universal person. A humanity that will experience peace, prosperity, and security as never before. That, in turn, will lead humanity to worship the product of his own hand. But a leadership is needed, and that is the god of this world and his Antichrist—finally a person who has power and authority to implement global world order. Revelation 13:4 has this to say: “And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?”

Arno Froese is the executive director of Midnight Call Ministries and editor-in-chief of the acclaimed prophetic magazines Midnight Call and News From Israel. He has authored a number of well-received books, and has sponsored many prophecy conferences in the U.S., Canada, and Israel. His extensive travels have contributed to his keen insight into Bible prophecy, as he sees it from an international perspective.

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