Smart home devices offer a lot of benefits, but many consumers are concerned with one big potential drawback: having an always-on device in your home that could be listening to everything you say.
PCMag surveyed 2,075 US consumers about their smart home opinions and preferences. We found that privacy is the number-one concern respondents had about smart home devices, particularly in reference to smart speakers with built-in voice assistants such as Alexa and Google Assistant.
A majority—68 percent—of respondents said they believe smart home devices listen to you when you aren’t aware and share the data with the companies behind the products: Amazon, Google, and even Facebook, for those who bought a Portal. The other 32 percent of respondents don’t believe smart home devices listen to them.
According to a recent report, Amazon employs thousands of people to listen what users say in the recording proximity of an Alexa-enabled Echo device. The workers transcribe, annotate, and then feed back anything learned into Alexa’s underlying software. But Amazon says this happens only with a small percentage of recordings to “improve the customer experience.”
Smart assistants such as Alexa are supposed to listen only when triggered by a wake word or other voice command, but that’s not always the case. To take extra steps to protect your privacy around a smart speaker or other connected device, you can disable active listening on Alexa, Cortana, Google Assistant, or Siri.