Now priced lower than an average oil change, owning an electronic personal assistant is easier than ever. The holiday hot ticket items topped many wish lists, giving it's lucky owner voice activated access to their daily preferences and tasks.
Without lifting a finger, devices like Google Home, Google Home Mini, Amazon Alexa and Amazon Echo will respond when you call, simply by saying the programmed 'wake' word. The electronic attentiveness, while convenient, raises some questions about what the artificial intelligence can do with everything it hears.
Tyler Wildman, CEO of Identity Theft Countermeasures Group in Jacksonville, recommends checking the privacy policies and user agreements for what data a device can collect.
"One of the things I look for is where data can be stored, who it can be given to, for example, it it allowed to go overseas," Wildman said.
Check the Policy
Amazon's Alexa policy as of Dec. 6 says voice recordings and other information is used to "answer your questions, fulfill your requests, and improve your experience and our services." In addition, Amazon warns it may turn over data if requested by a legal entity or to protect the rights, property, or safety of Amazon.com, our users, or others.
Google and Amazon's policies say voice recordings are only archived during device interactions, statements made when initiating electronic's "wake" word.
To limit the information stored by the device company, consider periodically requesting your history be wiped. This may hinder some of the preferences the device has been able to "learn" about the user.
Users can also mute the device during less active hours, though this will stop the voice activated feature from working while muted.
Even reputable companies storing data for legitimate reasons can be hacked, said Wildman, citing recent cases of major corporations falling victim to cyber thieves.
"We've all had that conversation where we said things we assumed were private, but with all these new devices, is it really private is the question," Wildman said. "You have to choose, do I want security or convenience? They very rarely mingle."