Smart Speakers and Privacy – Managing the Risks

The smart speaker industry is growing rapidly. It’s now estimated that 22% of US adults own a smart speaker, and around 46% use some type of digital voice assistant.

Devices like Google Home, Amazon Echo, and Siri use a combination of data and software calculations, voice recognition, sensors, and apps to meet consumers’ demands.

This can include playing music, answering questions, making lists, adding preferences of news sites, streaming and delivery services, and helping kids with their homework.

These preferences are then customised to each person’s needs and the details are stored in a cloud server.

The devices collect data based on the user’s location, what they look at, and other data. It then builds a consumer profile to make predictions about future behaviour and purchases.

There is, understandably, some suspicion surrounding these devices, mostly with the potential safety and privacy risks.

So what are the risks, and how can they be managed?

Let’s take a look:

What are the risks?

When it comes to smart devices, one of the biggest concerns consumers are facing is a lack of transparency.

The devices collect data. But, many users don’t know what the data will be used for, how it will be used by the company collecting it, which types of information are being tracked and collected, or how it will affect the use of the camera, video monitor, or microphone.

Another major risk is that the device could be hacked. For instance, consumer groups have recently issued warnings about children’s “smart toys” posing a risk of privacy breaches.

Any device that is wifi or bluetooth enables could be a risk, especially if it’s not using a secure connection, as this can make the device accessible to hackers who are able to access information.

Managing the risks

Smart speakers and assistants have many benefits. And if the risks are managed correctly, these devices can still be used in a way that helps consumers.

Some of the ways you can manage the risks include:

  • Carefully reading the privacy policies so you know exactly what you’ve signed up to.
  • Checking the privacy settings, so you know what data is being collected, what it will be used for, and how long it will be kept. Some of these features can be turned off, and others can be restricted if you wish.
  • Always use strong passwords to reduce the risk of being a victim of hacking.
  • Remind children about the potential safety risks of smart devices, and set up parental controls to manage these risks.
  • Keep you software up to date. Updates can include changes to security setting which can help keep your data safe and secure.

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