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Amazon Echo, Google Home: Virtual Assistants or Big Brother?

Devices like the Amazon Echo and Google Home claim to listen and record what we say only after we use trigger words. For the Echo, it’s “Alexa.” But could these cool, trendy devices be recording more of us than we think?

The Amazon Echo and Google Home devices were among the hottest-selling gifts this holiday season. Now they are being scrutinized, as police in Bentonville, Arkansas, are asking for evidence from such a virtual assistant in a murder case.

The case is raising new questions about privacy.

“Your home is your bastion of privacy, and you have Big Brother listening all the time,” said Ajay Arora, CEO of Palo Alto-based Vera Security.

Amazon admits it stores the questions asked of Alexa on a server.

“We know Amazon has a copy because consumers can actually listen to all their Alexa requests, and they can delete them,” privacy expert Bob Sullivan said.

But Arora says there’s also a hacking concern.

“Just as someone could tap a phone call, anyone could tap into your Google Home or Amazon Echo and listen to every word that you say,” Arora said.

Security experts say it’s possible these devices also could start recording when they merely think they’ve heard the trigger word. 

For its part, Amazon says it will not release customer information without a valid and binding legal demand properly served.

Published 5 hours ago | Updated 32 minutes ago

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