Your Smart Speaker is Accidentally Activating Up to 19 Times a Day

By Bill Toulas / February 24, 2020

According to a recent study by researchers at Northeastern University and the Imperial College in London, smart speaker devices are activating by mistake by up to 19 times a day. The study tested out popular products that deploy voice assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Assistant, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Apple’s Siri. Having too many false triggerings on these devices raises privacy concerns, as IoT (Internet of Things) devices are everywhere nowadays. This is especially worrying when many of the recordings that shouldn’t have been taken end up in the hands of human reviewers.

The researchers devised a refreshing testing approach that involved the playback of TV shows where a wide spectrum of different dialogues are heard. So, they fired up Netflix and played 125 hours of comedies, dramas, realities, mysteries, and crime series. To reach to safe conclusions, they repeated this test for twelve times. Nobody wants their IoT to activate while watching Netflix, so this is considered false triggering. In the same time, they set up a network traffic monitoring tool to detect when a smart speaker activates, and so here is a summary of their findings:

If there’s a smart speaker around, you never know when it will start listening, so the best way to treat these devices is as if they are active the whole time. If you need privacy, pull the plug. If you find using smart speakers a convenience that you can’t live without, you’d better turn them on only during the times that you need them. Other than that, there’s not much else you can do.

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