Always on: Privacy Implications of Microphone-Enabled Devices

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Today, the Future of Privacy Forum (FPF), in collaboration with Ernst & Young LLP, released Always On: Privacy Implications of Microphone-Enabled Devices, a new paper that explores how speech recognition technology fits into a broader scheme of “always listening” technologies. In an opinion piece for Recode, Stacey Gray explains:

Is your smart TV listening to your conversations? Are your children’s toys spying on your family?

These questions are being raised as the next generation of Internet-connected devices enters the market. Such devices, often dubbed “always on,” include televisions, cars, toys and home personal assistants, many of which now include microphones and speech-recognition capabilities.

Voice is an increasingly useful interface to engage with our devices. Consider the Amazon Echo, which can be activated by spoken command (“Alexa”), Mattel’s Hello Barbie, or Apple’s familiar personal assistant Siri, which can be activated by spoken command (“Hey, Siri”). The growing prevalence of voice as the primary way to interact with devices enables companies to collect, store and analyze increasing amounts of personal data. But consumers don’t always understand when and in what ways these devices are actually collecting information.

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