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04/22/2019 / By Robert Jonathan
Google and Amazon have filed patent applications for technology that moving forward will allegedly enable their digital assistants to spy on and collect data about consumer behavior even during sleep mode.
That is the conclusion of nonprofit consumer advocacy organization Consumer Watchdog, which has called upon the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to launch an investigation into those companies’ voice-activated devices Google Home (activated by the wakeword “OK, Google”) and Amazon Echo, the latter more commonly known as Alexa.
In a letter to the FTC, Consumer Watchdog summarized its concerns about the threat to consumer privacy.
The applications filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office reveal a vision for an Orwellian future in which digital assistants eavesdrop on everything from conversations to your toilet flushing habits to children’s movements and the books on bedside tables…
Patents the companies have filed about future uses show the devices are being pushed into our homes in way that is meant to deceive about their future use and lull us into accepting them.
The organization also claims the devices may violate the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act since they may be recording and analyzing what kids are talking about in the home without parental consent.
In a companion study of the patents in question, Consumer Watchdog notes that “While these devices offer convenience, they also offer tech companies unprecedented insight into users’ private lives.”
To make matters worse perhaps, the devices are said to be easily hackable by wrongdoers. The potential also exists for selling the data to third parties. If you own one of these devices, Consumer Watchdog recommends at a minimum powering them down when not in use.
In July 2017, Natural News reported that the Alexa functionality through Amazon Echo may allow some or even all of owners’ conversations to be transcribed and reviewed by third-party developers,
Both Google and Amazon have denied that they intend to spy on customers to push out targeted advertising, however, CBS News noted.
Watch Consumer Watchdog officials discuss the Google and Amazon patent applications in the clips from KTTV below.
Because of their dominance and intrusiveness, calls are increasing for regulation of Google, Amazon and other Big Social monopolies or near monopolies as public utilities. One influential Wall Street analyst predicts that Amazon, which purchased Whole Foods last year, plans to buy the Target retail chain this year.
If you have a Google account, you can go to the My Activity link and delete any history that the search engine has collected on you, or deactivate various kinds of data collection that might be enabled. (Related: Read more about online privacy or lack thereof at PrivacyWatch.news.)
Parenthetically, the Santa Monica, Cal.-based Consumer Watchdog, which describes itself as non-partisan, nonetheless supports so-called net neutrality.
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