These days, it seems like the name "Alexa" has become the most common name in millions of homes. Whether you use an Amazon, Google or Apple smart speaker, concerns about what these devices are sending back to the mothership are becoming more widespread.
Consumer Reports takes a look at just how concerned you should be, and what you can do to control your digital privacy with these connected devices.
Eric Rhee and his family love using their smart speaker. They enjoyed their first digital assistant so much they decided that one wasn't enough.
"I believe we have five," Rhee said.
But when it comes to how these connected devices work, Eric has some concerns, especially when it comes to the privacy of his two young daughters.
"I'm concerned down the line when they start having conversations with friends and those conversations get recorded I wonder if that somehow impacts their privacy," Rhee said.
Amazon, Apple and Google all say they take steps to protect their users' privacy, but all three companies also confirmed to Consumer Reports that they have teams listening to recordings of people using their voice-commands and interfaces.
"Companies like Amazon and Google have a ton of consumer data, and they're using that data to make their products better, constantly working to improve their AI by having both people listen to the recordings and also through machine learning and technology," said Consumer Reports Tech Editor Bree Fowler.
The companies say they use those recordings to improve how their smart speakers work. So, what should you do if you are one of the millions of consumers who owns a smart speaker?
"If you turn off those speakers when you're not using them you don't have to worry as much, but you can also go through and just spot check your recordings, if you hear something you don't want them to hear, you can delete it," Fowler said.
One thing to note, when you alter the privacy settings, you might be giving up some of the functionality of the device.
As for Eric Rhee, he'll continue to enjoy his smart speakers for now, but will use them smartly and safely.
Earlier this year, Amazon announced it would be introducing new controls to make it easier for Amazon Alexa users to delete records of their conversations with the digital assistant. Among the improvements, the company says, will be a new online Privacy Hub.
All Consumer Reports material Copyright 2019 Consumer Reports, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Consumer Reports is a not-for-profit organization which accepts no advertising. It has no commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site. For more information visit consumerreports.org
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