Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0

The Amazon Echo Dot and Privacy, a review

35 posts in this topic

While I was over in the UK for my birthday recently, a family member asked what I'd like as a gift, and I asked for one of these 

https://www.amazon.de/Amazon-Echo-Dot-Generation-Schwarz/dp/B01DFKBG54/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1502194126&sr=8-1&keywords=echo+dot

 

I had to wait for a few daye before I could unbox it, but once I got home it was up and running in no time. The setup is very straightforward (download the Alexa app to your smartphone, sign in to your Amazon account, then follow the instructions on the app)

After playing around with it for a few minutes, I was pretty impressed. Alexa (Amazon's voice activated assistant now built in to several of their devices) does a good job of recognising words and out of the box, but at this stage she will only perform basic tasks (playing music, setting alarms, giving a weather forecast etc.)

 

This is where 'Skills' come in, and here comes the real rub with the Echo Dot: you need to have your Amazon account's country set to the country in which you live if you want to make use of all the Alexa features, as well as Prime, (unless money is no object and you can afford to have two active Premium accounts in two countries.)

 

What this means is that, because our Premium account is set up on amazon.de, and there are certain key features on the Echo that I want to have access to, like linking my Spotify account to the Echo, that are only available with a Premium account, I am forced to use the Echo in German. There are two major problems with this: one is that as most of the music I listen to has English song titles, Alexa has real difficulties finding those songs when she is set to understand and speak German. My German pronunciation is not the best, but I'm pretty sure it's not so bad it prevents Alexa from finding certain songs on Spotify or understanding simple questions like 'Wetter Vorhersage für den nächste 7 Tage' (this question resulted in her telling me the Bundesliga football results) The other issue is that the 'Skills' on German Alexa suck compared to the British and American ones. 

What makes this even more frustrating is that Amazon recently released an update which allows a user to control FireTV with Echo / Alexa voice commands, but right now, I have the Alexa apps on our phones set to English which allows us to control radio and music with our voices, but prevents us from being able to load Skills on to the Echo, and presumably the current setting will prevent me from being able to link our FireTV to the Echo.

Right now, it looks as if the only possible workaround to this would be to have an Amazon Prime account in the UK or the US which would would require a UK based bank account or credit card, to be able to get a flawless Echo experience.

 

Overall, the Amazon Echo gets a 4/10 from me.


Think I might have to try the Google Home next...

 

2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Maybe I'm too privacy-conscious after 27 years in Germany, but I would never willingly install a listening device in my home that could potentially record everything I said on Amazons' computers, for subsequent data mining or whatever else.

 

To each his or her own, of course.

6

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That's a fair point Jeff, but there is a mute button on the device for when you're not expecting to need it.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I recently stayed with some friends who have one. I'm with Jeffo - gave me the creeps. They do way too much profiling.

 

Who wants to cross the room to turn it on every time it is needed? Kind of defeats the purpose I guess.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, El Jeffo said:

Maybe I'm too privacy-conscious after 27 years in Germany, but I would never willingly install a listening device in my home that could potentially record everything I said on Amazons' computers, for subsequent data mining or whatever else.

 

To each his or her own, of course.

 

You might unwillingly already have one especially if you have a Samsung smart tv. The tv in our bedroom, we assume,  use to listen to everything. Throughout the night the tv use to switch itself on, no picture, and we could here for a short time conversations in English then it would turn itself off. After turning off the automatic update and cancelled voice control it stopped doing it.

 

I wouldn't be surprised if Amazon has Alexa doing a similar thing.

 

 

1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 minutes ago, Sir Percy B said:

 

You might unwillingly already have one especially if you have a Samsung smart tv. The tv in our bedroom, we assume,  use to listen to everything. Throughout the night the tv use to switch itself on, no picture, and we could here for a short time conversations in English then it would turn itself off. After turning off the automatic update and cancelled voice control it stopped doing it.

 

I wouldn't be surprised if Amazon has Alexa doing a similar thing.

 

 

Nope. Didn't buy the Samsung smart TV for that very reason.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, bennetn said:

I've got one, set it to English and it works fine.

 

Out of interest, where is your Amazon account based? And have you tried adding Skills to Alexa yet?

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Himself built an HTPC ages ago. No need for a smart tv for much the same reasons as Jeffo. The problem is, I don't thing we will be able to replace our current tv with anything but.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There are so many devices in your home these days that track you and can lisiten you that its almost impossible to be stopped from being monitored, if somebody wants to

 

Has everyone forgotten about the smuffs ?? in mobile phones. Its a fact that mobile phones can be set to monitor your location, your voice and take pictures, while appearing to be switched off, all 'data' is transmitted back to base ...

 

so can your laptop and many other devices in your home.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have no such devices. My mobile phone has no data and is always switched off unless I need it. Black tape over the cameras on my PC and laptop which are also shut down and turned of when not in use. Not on any social media.

 

Of course my data is mined when I order stuff online and such. That is pretty unavoidable. But I get no spam emails from sites that I visit.

 

Please tell me what other precautions I can take.

 

Thanks.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
10 hours ago, yesterday said:

There are so many devices in your home these days that track you and can lisiten you that its almost impossible to be stopped from being monitored, if somebody wants to

 

Has everyone forgotten about the smuffs ?? in mobile phones. Its a fact that mobile phones can be set to monitor your location, your voice and take pictures, while appearing to be switched off, all 'data' is transmitted back to base ...

 

so can your laptop and many other devices in your home.

 

Paranoia 101. It surprises me that some people think they are so important that the government will be checking up on them. 

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
17 minutes ago, Adem137 said:

 

Paranoia 101. It surprises me that some people think they are so important that the government will be checking up on them. 

 

ever heard of Edward snowden  ( google it )??? the ex-usa government man who detailed what the smufs can do !!, all detailed above

Why do you think the USA, will develop these smufs, if they not want to use them ?? - do you think that nobody else can do this

 

Most governments, are monitoring their people to spot terrorists on platforms like whatsapp, facebook, twitter etc. Once potential terrorists are identified they use  smufs, to gain more data on what individual people are doing in their everyday life. How else do you think the governments are stopping terrorists cells before they act ? - you think they the CIA just read it on a toilet wall somewhere  !!!

 

@fraufruit

Maybe they can monitor your home phone as well ( although I did not hear of it ), with the roll out of VOIP phones everywhere, I would imagine that this would be possible.

 

 

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It isn't the government that I'm "paranoid" about, it's all the marketing profiling that's being done. Yes, we have VOIP phones but that doesn't bother me. Anyone listening would just be bored to death.

1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
47 minutes ago, Adem137 said:

 

Paranoia 101. It surprises me that some people think they are so important that the government will be checking up on them. 

Doesn't have to be the government.

If the device can record what is going on around it, it can collect data that can be sold/used for marketing purposes.

 

With voice recognition software it could pick out key words such as 'vacation', suddenly you start getting targeted adverts online.

Even now I get an idea what my gf has been looking at on amazon at work, as I get adverts online here where I work.

Some lawyers are starting to look at this area and the area of who would b legally responsible should a home control device go wrong.

For example, you have a device that controls the outside/security blinds and they do not go up, you are stuck in the house.

Or in winter the vacation mode kicks in, house gets cold. Maybe you are away on holiday and the fridge switches to defrost cycle, you come back to off food and the neighbours/owner if you rent, are annoyed about water damage.

EDIT: fraufruit - were were typing the same thing :-)

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
56 minutes ago, Adem137 said:

 

Paranoia 101. It surprises me that some people think they are so important that the government will be checking up on them. 

 

 

I use to chat regularly with a TTer... He would call every single day!!

If there was the slighters "Click" or "Static pop" whe would start saying things like " Hear that... they are spying on us again"... "They are listening in again" or "Just fuck off who ever you are"....    

'kin nutter!

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
12 minutes ago, fraufruit said:

It isn't the government that I'm "paranoid" about, it's all the marketing profiling that's being done.

 

10 minutes ago, cb6dba said:

If the device can record what is going on around it, it can collect data that can be sold/used for marketing purposes.

 

With voice recognition software it could pick out key words such as 'vacation', suddenly you start getting targeted adverts online.

Even now I get an idea what my gf has been looking at on amazon at work, as I get adverts online here where I work.

 

Maybe it's just me but I see this as a good thing. I prefer better targeted adverts. Why not? What's the downside?

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
15 hours ago, Chocky said:

 

Out of interest, where is your Amazon account based? And have you tried adding Skills to Alexa yet?

 

I have two accounts, like everyone does automatically, a de account when I'm in Germany and UK account.  I have added skills, connects to my (DE) spotify and gives me German weather etc and all in English.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Just now, theGman said:

Maybe it's just me but I see this as a good thing. I prefer better targeted adverts. Why not? What's the downside?

In order to target you, they have to listen.

You have no control over the data or who buys it or the definition of of targeted in this context. Also no control over who can send you this.

 

One day you are chatting about having to redo a bit of plaster on the walls and you are then spammed with adverts on plaster, wallpaper, paint, new furniture and interior design companies. You mentioned a leaking a friend has and your feed is now full of plumbers, tools and work clothes.

This could be online adverts, emails and even the odd SMS. Depending on the AGBs etc, companies that have bought your data could contact you directly (or you missed the checkbox saying you do hot want that). 

 

This is before we think that the thing is recording pretty much everything you are saying. Amazon (or the company providing the device) really have no need to know which medical conditions you have or that you are cheating on your partner.

 

Imagine that, you are talking to your bit on the side and your partner is getting adverts for condoms on their work laptop... 

*Phone rings* - conversation starts 'why are you looking at them, we don't use them'...

 

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
11 hours ago, fraufruit said:

Not on any social media.

 

Are you sure about that ??? 

11 hours ago, fraufruit said:

Please tell me what other precautions I can take.

 

Don't post so much on Toytown perhaps.

:ph34r:

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0