How reliable are voice assistants?
BY wangxingwei from 21st Century
Published 2019-08-26
Users are questioning the privacy of voice assistants like Siri and Alexa. PIXABAY

Many of you may have used Siri, a voice assistant of US tech company Apple. You only have to say “hey Siri” and it will answer to your command. However, we may be sacrificing our privacy to enjoy this convenience.

According to a recent report by the Guardian, Siri can be accidentally triggered and start recording private conversations, such as discussions between doctors and patients. Some of these recordings are then given to workers outside the company to review.

Apple claimed the data was used to help Siri improve, but users were not informed of this measure in the first place.

Apple’s Siri is not the only voice assistant to come under fire.

In 2018, Alexa, a voice assistant developed by US tech company Amazon, recorded a private conversation between a couple and sent it to a stranger without their permission.

These issues deepened concerns that tech companies are infringing users’ rights of privacy.

Many people have long feared that tech companies are listening and collecting data from private conversations, reported Forbes. Using this data, third party companies could then paint an accurate picture of users’ habits and preferences in order to serve them more targeted advertisements, or even worse, sell this private data.

Despite this risk, the popularity of voice assistant seems to be unstoppable. According to a report by Ovum, a London-based research firm, there will be almost as many voice assistants on the planet as people by 2021.

“In the near future, everything from your lighting to your air-conditioning to your refrigerator, your coffee maker, and even your toilet could be wired to a system controlled by voice,” commented The Atlantic.

Colin Horgan wrote on the blog site Medium that he believed people’s daily lives will soon become a source of data.

“The sounds of our homes, the symphony of life – laughing, crying, talking, shouting, sitting in silence – will no longer be considered memories, but data,” he wrote.
“我们家园的声音,生活中的交响乐 —— 笑声、哭声、说话声、叫喊声、沉默地静坐 —— 这些都将不再被视为回忆,而是成为了数据,”他写道。

To deal with the issue, Blake Morgan, reporter for The Atlantic, believed that the answer is transparency.

“All companies need to have messaging ready to explain to customers what they do with private data,” she wrote on The Atlantic.

Daniel Blair, CEO of a virtual reality startup in Canada, told CBC News that people can change settings and limit how often the device is active in your home, and do some research before buying a device.

“Even when we trust a company to protect our privacy... we should consider what’s being done behind the scenes and ask those holding the keys to help us understand it better,” commented iMore, a Canada tech website.

(Translator & Editor: Wang Xingwei AND Luo Sitian)
Command  命令
Sacrificing  牺牲
Privacy  隐私
Triggered  触发
Concerns  担忧
Infringing  侵犯
Preferences  偏好
Targeted  有针对性的
Wired  连接
Transparency  透明化
Device  设备