14 December 2018 by Tris Tolliday

Voice assistants & your privacy

Voice assistants & your privacy

Voice and Privacy

As Voice Assistants saturate the market, our homes are now filled with more microphones than ever before, but with this rise in ears and eyes listening and watching us, should we be concerned for our privacy?

Always On

One major concern people have about voice, is that it is always listening. This is only partially true. While the microphone on your device is always on, it isn’t constantly streaming data over to Google and Amazon. Instead it has a model trained to your voice locally (offline), when it recognises its wake word e.g. Hey Google, it then connects to online services to understand what you are asking.

Interacting with a skill or action

Once you are engaging with a skill or action, you are essentially talking to your chosen brand through the assistant's servers, at which point a brand could potentially store anything you say to it. Any engagement should be treated as if you are talking to a customer service agent over the phone or in a shop/branch. Some of this information can be shared with Google/Amazon, which is bound by both the Brand, and their own Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

Should I be concerned?

Inherently, there is no difference between the information you share with a brand on a smart speaker, and the information you share with a brand over the phone or on their website. This is also true of information you share with Google and Amazon over the web. Both are global advertising giants, and when logged into an account on your chosen service, you're providing a glimpse into your internet browsing habits, providing you with more appropriate adverts. Both companies assert that the data pretty much stays securely within their ecosystems.

What does this mean for Customers?

Customers should apply the same rules to Digital Assistants, that they do to brands on the web and in the real world.

What does this mean for Brands?

Brands should remain transparent and reputable, reward loyalty, and remain engaging, just as a brand should.

The web is built on trust, build trust between your brand and customers, and both will prosper.