Google Home and Amazon Echo Invade Your Home Privacy

Many search engines store your history on their servers for a period of time. A similar process applies to commands that are conducted through voice assistant devices, such as Amazon Echo and Google Home. Voice activated assistant devices are connected to the internet and merely getting information from the same search results that other devices display on their screens, similar to a computer. The information we request via voice is stored in the servers of the device just like any other search queries are stored.

Instead of typing your search on a computer, laptop, or tablet, you speak directly to the home device, Google Home or Amazon Echo.  But keep in mind that just like your computer collects data, so do the voice activated devices. They store the content and the recording of your voice on their servers. All the commands you verbally request to Google Home go to Google’s servers and are stored there for more than a year. While Alexa on Amazon Echo does not go through a traditional search engine, it uses Amazon’s servers to store your commands. Both Google and Amazon keep a log of your requests, they are encrypted and stored on the companies respective servers.  All communication to and from the home device is encrypted, to protect sensitive information.

The situation is a bit different with Siri. Siri does not log the searches that are run through it in the same manner as traditional search engines do. The information is logged, but the logs are only is associated with a random string of numbers. This makes it much more difficult to trace, as the searches are not associated with your name or IP address.

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Do you have privacy at your own home?

The bottom line is that voice activated devices store your information. The question is, are the voice activated devices always listening to your conversations? How much privacy do you have at home? Amazon Echo and Google Home are listening to you at all time. They are listening all the time to hear the wake word(s). However, nothing is sent to the servers of a search engine or sent over the internet unless one gives the “wake” word(s). The specific “wake” word varies depending on the particular voice assistant that you are using. “Alexa” is the default wake word that the Amazon Echo listens for commands.”OK Google” is the Google default wake term.

In conclusion, the voice command devices listen to your home conversations but the information is not stored, only the data that follows the wake words is kept on file. According to Google’s data security and privacy page, “Google collects data that’s meant to make our services faster, smarter, more relevant, and more useful to you. Google Home learns over time to provide better and more personalized suggestions and answers.” Once we introduce Google Home to our homes, we are granting permission to Google to invade our privacy. The next question would be, will Google or Amazon share my information with others? Amazon released a statement stating, “Amazon will not release customer information without a valid and binding legal demand properly served on us. Amazon objects to overbroad or otherwise inappropriate demands as a matter of course.” We really don’t have much control over the data that is stored on the servers.

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How Secure Are Voice Assistants From Hackers?

However, it is unlikely that the device could be used as a listening device by hackers. While it is not impossible, there are many built in security measures that would make the situation unlikely. Even if your network were to be compromised, it is unlikely that the hacker(s) would be able to get into your voice assistant. A high level of encryption is used that protects it from being compromised.

The only situation where the information from voice assistants could be easily compromised by hackers is if hackers were to get into the servers of a search engine. However, this is not an impossible scenario given the number of hacks that major companies have suffered. Still, the data that is stored by search engines is relatively secure compared to many other websites on the internet.