31 July 2019
Smart speakers is a new product category in the world of gadgets which has also seen impressive growth in the past year. These are speakers with digital assistant integration like Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple's Siri. But like every other gadget and internet-enabled service, there are privacy concerns related to smart speakers as well. John Borthwick, a well-known tech investor, is the latest influential personality to share his views on the topic.
In an exclusive conversation with Yahoo Finance for its Influencers series, Borthwick said that he believes that tech companies are making use of smart speakers for spying on users. These include Amazon's Echo lineup, Google Home series, and Apple's HomePod which are the best-selling smart speakers around the world.
“I would say that there's two or three layers sort of problematic layers with these new smart speakers, smart earphones that are in market now. And so the first is, from a consumer standpoint, user standpoint, is that these, these devices are being used for what's — it's hard to call it anything but surveillance."
This is not surprising to hear as each of the three tech companies have been found guilty of snooping on users. It started with Amazon which was reported to be transcribing users' conversations with Amazon Alexa in April 2019. Amazon later responded to the same by saying that transcriptions are used for making Alexa better by helping it understand slangs, regional expressions, and foreign languages. It was followed by a report that Google was also listening to Assistant conversations through its smart speakers. Apple has also been found to be doing the same with its own HomePod smart speakers.
In the same conversation, Borthwick added that there should be some form of regulations to keep such activities in check. He wants users to have more control over the data that gets shared with tech companies. It is also important for users to know that their data is getting tracked by companies in the first place which is something the majority of the users are unaware of.