Is Big Brother watching (or listening)?

Spy Camera

In the last few years, digital assistants have become all the rage. Amazon has it’s Echo powered by Alexa, Alphabet has Google Home, and even Microsoft has partnered with Samsung to deliver Cortana into everyone’s living room. On top of that, you have your smartphones that records everywhere you've been and more and more people are putting cameras all over their house and office that send video back to Cloud. It’s easy, convenient and ubiquitous. But should you be worried about what data is being sent to mega-corporations or is the convenience worth it?

Most of the major players in this space do give you controls over what is recorded and the ability to review and delete activity. For example, visit myactivity.google.com and you can see all the stuff Google knows you’ve done, including what you’ve asked the Google Assistant,  what apps you use and where you’ve been. You can even delete data entries. On the Amazon Echo, you go to the app > Settings > History and you can review and delete recordings.

Now, Amazon, Alphabet, et al. claim they are responsible with the data and only use it anonymously to “improve” their services. Apple, for example, has confirmed that they keep all Siri data for two years.

After an Amazon Echo had been subpoenaed in a murder investigation, Amazon went to great lengths to explain that while Echo is always recording, it only saves 60 seconds of pre-roll, not entire 24/7 recordings. The Echo listens for a trigger word, and when it hears it, it sends the preceding 60 seconds plus whatever was recorded afterward.

Coming up next is going to be the Cloud based cameras. Amazon has already announced a camera based version of the Echo called Echo Look and Alphabet acquired the Nest Cam back in 2014. Is there someone surveilling you back at the Amazon or Alphabet home office? No, but the data is all processed to “improve” services.

So, let’s just clarify real quick what “improve” services means. For the most part, improving services to these corporations means better targeting you for advertisers. Don’t be shocked if you’re talking about a product around one of these devices and suddenly gets ads for it the next time you go online.

Within a few years, your house could be loaded with things that see what you buy, hear what you’re saying and know where you’re shopping. That’s why it’s important to understand these technologies and their privacy controls before they become too ubiquitous. Read the Privacy Policies and learn how to view and clear the history of the devices before purchasing them and understand that unplugging the device does nothing to delete the data that is stored online.

A better alternative is to look into getting devices where you control all the endpoints. An example of that would be the kind of IP video cameras we install. We can set them up so that you can view them securely online or have footage stored on a server that only you control.

If you’re worried about security and privacy for your business, please give us a call at 866-793-8283 before you make any decision. We’ll be able to explain to you the pros and cons, all the option out there and maybe even provide you with some options where you’ll maintain total control.