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Amazon patent could let Alexa listen in on conversations and discover your tastes

By midian182 · 7 replies
Apr 12, 2018
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  1. Soon after Mark Zuckerberg was once again forced to deny that Facebook secretly listened in on users’ conversations to improve ad targeting, a recently filed Amazon patent was discovered that appears to perform a similar function.

    The patent describes how Amazon’s digital assistant, Alexa, could listen out for certain trigger words, such as “love,” “like,” and “hate,” that will help it ascertain a user’s preferences and dislikes—very helpful when it comes to targeted ads. “One or more sniffer algorithms or processes can attempt to identify trigger words in the voice content, which can indicate a level of interest of the user,” states the document.

    While the technology may be used to expand an Amazon user’s profile and discover what advertisements might be of interest to them, it could also see Alexa acting without first being prompted. “If the user mentions how much the user would like to go to a restaurant while on the phone, a recommendation might be sent while the user is still engaged in the conversation that enables the user to make a reservation at the restaurant,” suggests the patent.

    Such abilities do raise a multitude of privacy concerns, particularly at a time when the practice of tech companies spying on their users is under the spotlight. But as with all patents, there’s no guarantee that this one will ever become a reality.

    “We take privacy seriously and have built multiple layers of privacy into our Echo devices,” Amazon said, in a statement to the BBC.

    "Like many companies, we file a number of forward-looking patent applications that explore the full possibilities of new technology. Patents take multiple years to receive and do not necessarily reflect current developments to products and services."

    Earlier this week, Mark Zuckerberg assured Sen. Gary Peters that Facebook did not secretly use device microphones to record users as a way of serving them appropriate ads—a conspiracy theory that’s been around for years.

    Permalink to story.

  2. TomSEA

    TomSEA TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 3,035   +1,444

    Conspiracy theorists are going to love hearing this...
  3. VitalyT

    VitalyT Russ-Puss Posts: 4,252   +2,721

    They could just rename it into Alien Probe, so people know what's coming next.
    wiyosaya likes this.
  4. trparky

    trparky TS Evangelist Posts: 465   +335

    Oh heck no. There's a reason why I won't let one of these devices into my home.
    ShagnWagn, regiq and senketsu like this.
  5. Kibaruk

    Kibaruk TechSpot Paladin Posts: 3,719   +1,135

    Oh boy... they did drop the ball on this one. I'm sure they will receive heavy backlash now.
  6. George Orwell in his novel '1984' was worried governments might force citizens into having video and microphone surveillance in their homes. I would think he would be amazed that corporations have actually been able to get citizens to pay out of their own pocket to have one in their home!
    Aldous Huxley in his novel 'Brave New World' was concerned our love of convenience and pleasure would be our undoing and convenience is one of the main selling points of these items.
    What amazes me is the younger people I know are all excited about these and getting one, when I ask they have no idea, not a clue that there could possibly be any downside.
  7. p51d007

    p51d007 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,828   +1,112

    Nope...no "smart" devices in my home. Smartphone is bad enough, but that's it.
    Don't you know the alphabet agencies love all of these smart devices.
    ShagnWagn likes this.
  8. regiq

    regiq TS Addict Posts: 203   +80

    ShagnWagn likes this.

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