Six million homes in the US have purchased Amazon Echo. You may think it's just a kitschy box with a Siri type voice and a passing fad, but if so, you're wrong.
Sure, you can use it to order toilet paper and play The Stones, but if Apple has taught us anything with pioneering smartphone technology, it's that these type of tech advancements are usually seen this way, at least until it becomes ubiquitously indispensable.
By 2018, Gartner.com predicts that 30% of our interactions with technology will be through "conversations" with smart machines and Amazon is pioneering the way with a completely new computing interface.
Alexa isn't just a voice -- she's a replacement for the need to use a screen. Eventually, even having to pull our smartphone out from our pocket at home will seem like a laborious task. You may be rolling your eyes, but soon you'll be hooked on surfing the web through the air and anything else will seem outdated and onerous.
That being said, as voice interface finally creeps into the mainstream consumer culture and more people purchase voice-enabled speakers and gadgets, what will that mean for our safety as consumers?
We already get inundated with Facebook ads that are targeting our search engine behavior, will Alexa be listening in 24/7 to our most private interactions with family and friends? Will Alexa hear our fights with partners and suggest local marriage counselors or provide other recommended content?
If so, where will this information be stored and how secure is it? Who actually has access to it and how long is it stored for?
These are all very legitimate questions and at the very least, consumers should be provided with an answer. As new technology is created faster than we can write the legislation to protect ourselves, what are our actual privacy rights? Does buying this product allow advertisers the ability to keep an ear inside our homes legally without our consent?
It will be interesting to see how this technology is utilized in the coming months and years. I suspect that, until these answers are readily available, it may be a good idea to be safe rather than sorry, at least until we can be promised our privacy and companies can be held liable in a federal court for breeching it.
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