Tech Talk: These Graphics Show The Creepy Things You Didn't Know Alexa and Siri Could Do

Although it can feel like we’re going backwards at times, it’s safe to say we are living in the future. We don’t quite have flying cars and we’re not ready to move to Mars just yet, but some of the tech we now take for granted would have absolutely blown our minds if we saw it a decade ago.

One of the burgeoning technologies of the future is smart home tech. Voice assistants, smart heating systems, video link doorbells, innovation is reaching every part of our lives. But with that comes some pretty justified concerns.

Voice assistants have dominated smart home tech. We’ve already become accustomed to voice assistants in our smartphones, like Siri and Bixby. Google and Amazon are leading the way with Google Home and Amazon Echo. But lots of people are worried about their prevalence.

For example, they always have to be listening to respond to voice commands. This raises concerns about essentially bugging your own house. And why wouldn’t a website who sells everything in the world want a live mic in your home so they know what to try and sell you? Surely Amazon, who have some of the most predatory business tactics in human history, just want to be a helping hand in your home right?

There’s plenty of horror stories too and who could forget what would happen if you asked Alexa if she works for the CIA? In early editions of the Amazon Echo, asking Alexa that question would cause it to malfunction and turn off!

So what else can they do? Vivid Doors have compiled a list of all the creepy things you didn’t know your smart home tech could do. New technologies aren’t invincible, and knowing the vulnerabilities of your home tech means you can protect yourself against it!

Talking To Each Other

Cartoons Show The Creepy Things You Didn't Know Alexa & Siri Could Do

You can ask your voice assistants what they think of each other! As they respond to voice commands, getting different voice assistants to talk to each other has been attempted since they first hit the shelves. Probably completely harmless, but with concerns over machine learning and AI, do we want our voice assistants talking to each other?

In 2017, Facebook had to shut down two chatbots who had started talking to each other in a language only they understood. It was very primitive, but is a very disturbing indication that AI could develop beyond our control...

Alexa’s Burglar Mode

Illustrations Show The Creepy Things You Didn't Know Your Smart Home Tech Could Do

This feature isn’t creepy in theory but in practice, it has some pretty concerning implications. Alexa’s guard mode will listen out for things like breaking glass, footsteps, coughing, doors opening and closing. If your voice assistant can identify those noises, that definitely is a bit creepy and adds fuel to the conspiracy theories that these are being used (whether Amazon and Google know it or not) in mass surveillance.

Vulnerabilities

Tech Talk: These Graphics Show The Creepy Things You Didn't Know Alexa and Siri Could Do

What happens when your voice assistant lets in a burglar? As technology becomes more advanced, so do its methods of manipulation. Potential intruders can use a laser to simulate sound frequencies, letting them command your voice system. With the vision of smart homes being totally connected, your heating, locks, lights and all the rest linked together by an app, this is definitely of concern.

Creepy Laughing

These Visuals illustrate The Creepy Things You Didn't Know Smart Assistants Could Do

This was a well publicised bug that has now been fixed. Alexa was known to burst into random fits of very creepy laughter. People would upload videos of discovering Alexa cackling in a dark room at 3am. If Amazon are trying to soothe people’s suspicions of their home tech, this definitely didn't help.

They Know Everything....

Alexa Can Ruin Birthday Surprises

Alexa may pick up on details that you didn’t expect/want her to. For example, asking when a delivery is due might elicit a response of who and what it is for. This can lead to some awkward moments, and again, feels a bit intrusive.

Always Listening

Siri Is Always Listening

Your voice assistant is always listening, it has to in order to work. It is also constantly recording, every recording ends up stored somewhere as data. Crazy conspiracy theory? Nope, Google and Amazon have both confirmed that they hire people to pore through these recordings to improve their software.


Some of these employees raised concerns after they’ve ended up listening to confidential conversations, criminal discussions, drug deals, sensitive medical information and even some...intimate moments.

Whispering

Did you know Alexa Has A Whisper Mode

Alexa can recognise whispering and will also hush her tone. Of course, this is practical if you’re using Alexa at night, but nothing will ever make a robot whispering not creepy.

Hijacking for Ads

Advertisers Can Hijack Your Home Tech

Advertisers have exposed the chinks in smart home tech’s armour. Burger King were able to hijack Google Homes around the country and get them to start describing a Whopper. This is a very worrying precedent and not dissimilar to the infamous Apple/U2 gaffe, where they uploaded a copy of U2’s new album to every iPhone in the world.

If advertisers can get your smart tech to start doing whatever they want, people with malicious intent could potentially do worse.

So, are you still sold on smart home tech? This post isn’t to dissuade you from using it, but to be more aware that new technology can be fraught with weaknesses and vulnerabilities, and you need to be sure you’re being safe with your tech.

Many people aren’t concerned if a Google employee ends up listening to their personal conversations. What really are tech companies going to do with that information? If you're not doing anything illegal, you’re not famous or you simply don't care, you’ve got nothing to worry about.

Plus it’s almost common knowledge that Google, Facebook, Amazon know everything about us and collect as much information on us as they can to sell to advertisers. It is pretty much their entire business model. If you’re concerned about your data and privacy now, that ship sailed a long time ago. You can take solace in the fact that there are literally billions of us in the same boat, though!

For others, bugging your own home isn’t worth the convenience of voice assistants. Are you Alexa-sceptic? Or are you all in on the smart home tech revolution? Whichever side of the coin you fall on, make sure you take measures to safeguard your family and home.

Read next: AI Technologies to take better control of our life, passwords might be obsolete in the future

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