FROM FACEBOOK’S PRIVACY CONTROVERSIES TO ALEXA’S
The digital and insecure world online:
Ours is a fast-paced digital world where we are regularly experiencing ground-breaking innovations and technologies. One of the technological breakthroughs of today’s world is listening to the consumers’ conversations and watching over their online behaviours to determine their choices and recommendations to the targeted advertisement.
The curious case of Amazon:
In a recent news, Amazon has filed a patent that would permit voice sniffing for its Alexa virtual assistant. After the outburst of this news, it is being feared that this service will eavesdrop on people’s conversations and their privacy can be compromised. This news comes at a time when Facebook and its owner Mark Zuckerberg are put under the hammer by Congress and US officials for making their personal information public for lucrative reasons to target adverts.
What’s the big idea?
The idea is to sniff voice and conversations held around Alexa’s voice-activated devices that would indicate Amazon about the choices, likes and dislikes of people and in return, it will suggest the most suited products or services to the users. The notion of this process is to turn Alexa, Amazon’s virtual assistant, from an efficient aide performing at the user’s command into a more proactive one.
Making it easy:
In simpler words, if a person talking on the phone and discusses something about going to a picnic spot or hotel, a quick recommendation may be sent to them in a matter of few seconds that allows the user to make a reservation at the hotel or book a cheap flight to the desired place. In a recent statement released by the company, Amazon said that the patent was being planned for future and it has no intentions to roll it at present.
Adding more the company said “Like many companies, we file a number of forward-looking patent applications that explore the full possibilities of new technology. Patents take multiple years to receive and do not necessarily reflect current developments in products and services.” Company sources have emphasized repeatedly that the Echo Devices don’t have the ability to send voice recordings back to Amazon however, they can only react while a ‘trigger word’ is uttered by the owner like Alexa, Echo or Computer. With the information collected this way, Alexa determines the likes, dislikes and behaviour of the user.
But as the situation opens up, the patent is likely to land Amazon in the same world of conspiracies and suspicion where Facebook is at the moment and trying desperately to get out of it. The social network giant has been burdened by rumours and although it is repeatedly denying the allegations fingers are continuously being raised that it eavesdrops on user’s conversations through a microphone or phone-mic in order to target adverts.
“What we need as users?” This is a question that is not new but when it comes to the answer, the situation is a blurred one. To ensure that the trust factor of users is kept intact, all the service providers and social networks must be equally treated and it must be ensured that user privacy is not compromised at any stage. By doing so only, the confidence of the users will be won. Failing to ensure this highly critical factor will cause delays in creating that all important impact for IT and delays may take place because the user may not be willing to trust or share their information with any social media channel such as Facebook or other service providers like Alexa. We must act and act fast before the situation becomes uncontrollable.