Let’s face it, your information is out there. Whenever you’re on the internet or making a purchase with your credit card, or even using GPS, you’re sharing your information with companies that are listening. All of this information about ourselves that we share, comes with the growing use of technology in our daily lives. AKA – it’s hard to avoid our information being scattered around if we want to stay up-to-date with the new fun tech gadgets.
To some degree, I’m sure your privacy is important to you, just as it is to me. This is why it’s good to know what bits of our information are really out there, as well as when and where our information is being recorded. A large part of most people’s daily lives now involves the use of a Virtual Assistant. Search Customer Experience defines a Virtual Assistant as “an application program that understands natural language voice commands and completes tasks for the user”. Whether we have a smartphone or a home assistant, we willingly talk to these digital friends and ask them questions or have them provide information on weather, or even have them schedule a haircut for us! Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant, and Amazon’s Alexa, are all popular virtual assistants.
“Forty-one percent of voice assistant users are concerned about trust, privacy and passive listening…”Sarah perez, techcrunch
So when we talk to these assistants, do they listen, and that’s the end of it? Do they record what we say and use that information elsewhere on us? Virtual assistants are new, so their technology is growing. It is however very good to know the privacy policies for what you’re using, as this will give you the most insight on what information is being tracked, and where that information is going.
Apple released Siri back in 2011, and since then, Siri has become the most dominant and widely used virtual assistant around the world. In 2018, Apple announced that there were 500 million devices that used Siri. Even though so many people have used Siri, or have access to Siri, the number of users has dropped over the years due to the introduction of new virtual assistants.
Google released its voice assistant back in 2016, and with it, they introduced Google Home. Google Home is one of the most popular in-home virtual assistants on the market. Siri acts just like the virtual assistant on your smartphone, but it’s a stationary speaker that people can engage with wherever they choose to put it in their house. According to Google, “52% of people keep their smart speakers in their Living Room rather than anywhere else in the house”.
Just like Siri and the other virtual assistants, Google Assistant admits to saving your information. They collect data on things like what you’re watching, how long you’re watching them, when, and where. According to the Google Assistant Terms, it does admit that it collects “information about the services that you use and how you use them, like when you watch a video on YouTube, visit a website that uses our advertising services, or view and interact with our ads and content”. Those same Assistant Terms state that the user is able to go into their account and delete the information that Google stores about you, which is great! However, Google does say that the information that it stores on you, helps improve your own experience when using Google and reduces spam and unwanted ads.
Alexa was released by Amazon back in 2016 in the Echo Speakers. Nowadays, Alexa has become the most dominant at-home virtual assistant in the US! An article from TechCrunch stated, “Amazon Echo devices lead the U.S. market with a 70 percent share of the installed base, followed by Google Home at 24 percent, then Apple HomePod at 6 percent”.
“Phones and smart home devices will typically record in three-second loops — just long enough to hear the wake-up phrase like “Alexa,” “Siri” or “Hey Google.” The audio constantly records over itself and it is never recorded long term until it has been awakened. When this does happen, the device begins recording everything it hears, and the audio is sent to a database cloud to be interpreted.”morgan march, the daily universe
At the end of the day, the use of these virtual assistants, and how comfortable you are with their use of information, is up to you. There is no denying that these virtual assistants have some benefits (and are fun to use), but make sure to familiarize yourself with the terms and agreements for each so you are in the know.
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