- There is not evidence that these devices record and transmit without an activation word triggering this behavior
- However, there is nothing to stop companies from breaking this assumption
- Some people think the risk of one of these companies flipping a switch and recording everything is negligible
- Some people think the risk of one of these companies flipping a switch and recording everything is warrants serious concern
- These two groups will not agree, and that's fine :)
The advantage of a stationary device is you don't have to charge it. It is always connected.
The disadvantage is you don't have to charge it. It is always connected so the engineers don't have to make trade offs they'd have to make on a battery operated phone.
I was running into issues with my phone’s alarm not being loud enough (either off or in a pocket, wrong room, etc) — with the Home, its always there.
The other ‘smart’ features are handy, but I’m not using those very much. When the price is right I will get some lights, though.
Does everybody need one of these? No. Is it any better than a phone? Yes, only because it’s exactly where I want it at all times.
Edit: It’s very unlikely because Amazon and Google pay for false positives, so they have a strong incentive to develop really good trigger word detection.
How do you know? And, how do you know they will not do this silently in the future?
Also worse detection does not mean more false positives. Usually, you can get the false positive rate very low by allowing more false negatives. In this way you have a choice, how you want to trade-off. Without this device, you are stuck with the choice that Amazon/Google make for you.
Because it's a literal hardware limitation. The device is built in a way that requires a wake word before any recording can possibly happen, thanks to it being built with 2 separate control boards. If they ended up maybe changing the wakeword to "the", then maybe they could "silently" listen to everything, but that would be caught pretty quick because the device would be "lit up" constantly (another _hardware_ thing), or someone would notice that it no longer responds to "Alexa" or "Google".
Seriously, a lot of people on HN need to do their damn homework about these devices before declaring them to be something they have been proven not to be. Packet sniffing and hardware inspection both instantly disprove all these conspiracy-theory nonsense claims that these devices are recording your every word.
And yes, I work on this stuff. Neither Google nor Amazon have the hardware limitations you suggest.
Echo devices only begin recording if they think they hear the wake word. Obviously this is less than straight-forward, hence the recordings that didn't follow the wake word (just examples of an Alexa device incorrectly thinking it heard it).
To suggest that a serial root console is a point of attack for an Echo device is bordering on insanity. You'd need a breakout board connected via the USB interface (not port, mind you) in order for this work-around to be effective. So yes, if a hacker had physical access to your device, time enough to solder on a breakout board, said third-party could record a variety of things.
But then, it's a whole hell of a lot easier to just install a mic in someones house and get the same effect, now wouldn't it?
That was not what he said. He argues that Amazon/Google could remotely use a similar exploit (without direct access to the hardware) to start recording without lighting up the LED.
Please, feel free to explain how Amazon and Google could exploit that vulnerability (that has since been patched)? More importantly, I'd love to hear how they are going to pull this off and hide it, given network traffic will be a dead give away?
If what your suggesting is actually what he meant, that's even more absurd than attackers trying to do the same.
A simple disclosure would have lent your comments more credibility.
Take note that Amazon Drop In  is a feature built around turning on the Echo mic remotely without a wake word. I don't think this feature could exist if there was a hardware limitation.
If your argument stems from "Google and Amazon would never do that," I do not trust any corporate entity to value my rights more than their ability to make a dollar.
People who think that there’s no way that Google and Amazon could be recording everything need to realize that this is also not true. Most of these “limitations” are software enforced, and that software is updated constantly.
I also don't necessarily assume mal-intent on the part of the companies, but that doesn't mean there won't _ever_ be that intent. Trusting that all of these assumptions hold over time is hard.
(It's true of cell phones too, of course, and I am engaged in constant activity to ensure the phone works for me, and not any of the many corporations that want to make it work for them. Turning off notifications, uninstalling certain apps after they've gone bad, ensuring permissions aren't too wide open, uninstalling default-installed apps and disabling others... it's a constant battle made worthwhile only by the fact that in the end, I really have mostly mastered my phone and it is working for me. I don't have one of these audio assistants because it is far less clear to me how to do that. Modulo being spied on by intelligence agencies, anyhow, although at this point I'm not sure how one could even escape that.)
This is a problem with forced updates in general (I'm also thinking of Windows, Chrome, Chrome extensions, etc. here) that security experts seem completely blind to.
That said, note that even if the software didn't update, it doesn't mean it would have to send bad packets when you're actually observing. It could randomly start doing that once in a while after a few months.
This is the big point. You are not only trusting that the company as it is today is doing the right thing, but that the company will continue to do the right thing for so long as the device is in your house - and that they will do the right thing in perpetuity with your data (including if/when they sell the company down the road).
As a side note, whataboutism adds nothing of value to this discussion about the Google Home and Amazon Echo.
Also, talking about your contradictory behavior with your smartphone isn't whataboutism, unless you want to avoid addressing your hypocrisy, because smart phones are susceptible to the same blanket fears you have with homes/alexa. To critique only the latter, and not the former (which you use daily), is not fair.
Per Google's own site: "Long press to trigger the Google Assistant."
This is a very technically naive interpretation of their hardware/software solution.
If the wake word were hard-coded into silicon then perhaps I would be charitable about your misunderstanding(s) - but of course it is not. The wake word is user-definable and can be changed to arbitrary sounds at any time.
Whatever hardware limitation(s) may exist are trivially worked around with software, which can be updated over the top of you at any time.
What is a conspiracy theory about today's hardware, I have no trouble imagining is a planned or at least considered future iteration of their "service".
Based on what? Marketing copy? Eyeballing iFixit teardowns?
> but that would be caught pretty quick because the device would be "lit up" constantly (another _hardware_ thing)
Totally not buying it, unless you can show me the traces and discrete components that force power through the LED when signal from the microphone is allowed to reach the uC. If it's done in software, I'm not trusting it.
If you're making an argument of "trust the vendor because economics", you have to recognize how weak it is.
I've spent some time reverse-engineering the echo microphone board, and while there is an interlock that prevents recording while the red mute button is lit (just the light under the button, not the ring), I didn't see anything that would prevent recording while the ring light was off.
Unless there is a separate out of band board with a relay I can hear or see (meaning, code alone can't enable something), then it really isn't a hardware limitation. The security controls and operations are in the code. The code can change or may already have silent monitoring capabilities. Nobody on HN could really answer whether or not this is the case. All we can do is speculate. If someone were required to put lawful monitoring code in place, they would not be allowed to discuss it here. The best anyone could do is decompile the code or get the source code for the firmware. Even then, there could be non-volital space that allows for updates.
Case in point, there have been malware packages that could enable your microphone and camera on the laptop without turning on the LED. This varied with camera model. Some power the LED when the camera has power. Microphones don't always activate an LED. There are a myriad of articles you can find providing examples of malware that can listen to cell phone microphones, laptop microphones without activating the LED.
Unless the mic and lights are somehow wired together (they aren't), then this is really just more software which can be trivially updated away.
The Google Home at least has a separate board with a microcontroller on it which could be used for keyword recognition, but I'm pretty sure they allow that to be updated for the sake of improving keyword recognition and there's no reason that an update couldn't disable the LEDs in the listen state as far as I can see.
And all of this is hinged on hoping you notice LEDs firing in the corner while you're having a conversation. Perhaps a more noticeable method should be used in cases like this. A forced "beep"/tone or something from an isolated circuit hardwired to the speakers.
From pure technical perspective, can the device not be programmed to be waked by wakewaord “the” with the light off?
It absolutely can be.
I'm under the impression that packet sniffing is useless with end-to-end encryption, but I could be wrong. I.e., you can tell that something is being sent, but you can't know what.
It does however not exclude other information, like sending keyword flags, or storing audio fragments to send along with other messages later on.
If they can't see all of the traffic, but just know where the traffic is going, then I don't think they did their homework.
I do understand that the wake word processing happens in a special kernel in a low power state, however....
The wake word is a trained kernel, it can be trained to listen for a huge set of things (as seen in the Pixel's passive song detection), so they would just train the kernel to detect a large targeted (marketing?) vocab.
about being "lit up" constantly? I'm not saying you are wrong, but I'd really like to see a citation that this is true. Is it true for both echo and home?
And while Packet Sniffing can disprove that it's listening and sending whole audio to the cloud, it can't disprove that it's listening for a huge set of "wake words" and toggling bits in other control messages to track users in more subtle ways.
Citation needed. Further, listening for a wake word and reacting to that is likely done completely in software: the fact it's even listening for a "wake word" means the hardware (microphone) is in fact always listening, it's just [presumably] not actually sending that audio to The Cloud (tm).
The unauthorized recorded data can be sent encoded with/into the authorized data.
The resulting backlash and legal ramifications would be so huge it just wouldn't be worth it. It wouldn't just take an insane and stupid CEO to do that, but also thousands of other tech/adops employees who'd have to be like, "yea this is a great idea."
1. Get people addicted to technology X.
2. Keep bugging people using technology X to surrender their privacy using classical dark patterns.
There is no need for whistleblowers. It's all done in the open. You have already willingly surrendered your communications, your 24/7 location, your knowledge searches, your financial transactions, your media interests and your genetic material. Why not surrender the privacy of your home as well? Yes/AskMeLater.
An Echo, or similar dross is a closed box controlled OTA, and networked. Even if someone had immense faith in company X, it would be unwise to ignore intelligence and law enforcement both foreign and domestic wanting access. You can’t root Alexa, it won’t even work without the cloud. It really does feel like training wheels for something entirely unpleasant, and all because people are so helpless in the face of dubious convenience and fashion.
Even worse: when always-on surveillance devices become popular enough that a judge could rule that the technology (in the abstract, not a specific product) is "in general public use" - crossing the bright-line rule created in Kyllo v United States - the police no longe4r need a warrant to use the technology see the "details of a private home that would previously have been unknowable without physical intrusion".
I'm not talking about the police being involved with Amazon or using the Echo. When a technology is "in general public use", the police can use their own always-on microphone to transmit previously-private speech to a 3rd party on the internet. Normalizing surveillance devices not harms the person using the device, it also reduces *everyone's 4th Amendment protection.
 Used throughout the ruling, but especially section II of Justice Stevens' dissent.
 The ruling, 2nd paragraph
I remember a Romanian politician and member of Parliament complaining about the local telecom providers displaying the GSM location data on the phones’ screens sometime back in 2002 and 2003, I remember of laughing at his ludicrous (that’s how I viewed it at the time) complaint, I mean, he was a stupid politician while I was a CS student, couldn’t he see how cool it was to see your neighborhood name on your Nokia 3110’s screen? Of course that the stupid politician was right and I and the fellow technophiles like myself were wrong.
Just because something is ultra high risk, stupid, illegal and abuses consumers isn't apparently enough of a reason for large corporates not to do it.
Edit: codename SOMALGET, subproject of MYSTIC. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MYSTIC_(surveillance_program)#...
Spy agencies spy. It's their job description.
The what now?
1) whistleblowing unlikely because any employee that steps out of line can and will be destroyed
2) any media fuss will blow over in a few days
3) promotions and bonuses require outsize risks
I think everyone has a point in their career when they realise large tech companies are unaccountable before the law. Mine was watching the MERS database running roughshod over American property ownership laws.
Everything can be explained away with "we discovered a bug that might cause your unit to record you constantly, but it's fixed now. Won't happen again, sorry!"
Are you sure? I don't seem to remember too much backlash from this, which was pretty similar:
Or this more recent story:
> However, Apple's practice of sharing Siri data with third parties [to provide and improve Siri, Dictation, and dictation functionality] is perfectly legal and outlined in Apple's iOS Software License Agreement, which Siri users are required to accept.
And of course the second article is an isolated case of human error. Nothing to do with violating privacy for profit.
Given the multiple precedents on the erosion of privacy path in the past 20 years, of which I quoted one example above, it's pretty obvious that they will turn "always on listening" in the future, using whatever dark patterns necessary to avoid a class action suit.
Because that would be pointless. The real problem right now is false triggering. If you’re actually worried about being spied on, why on earth would you have one of these in the first place?
From a privacy perspective, having user control of the wake word prevents Google and Amazon from adding future wake words that could be abused for other ways to track us. For example, Google might get the bright idea to track TV ads by listening for audio in the ads. Or tracking people in your house by making Android phones emmit non-audible chirps. These kind of "features" could be easily introduced at any point in the future by an update to privacy policies that nobody notices.
Considering that some TVs have this built-in, I'd be surprised if Google wasn't already doing the same. It's why my "smart" TV isn't allowed to connect to my wifi network.
(There was a previous HN article about it, I believe the brand was Samsung.)
At this rate, it's only a matter of time before evidence like that gets leaked/released, which would serve as a good probe on how much these devices really record.
> If the speech recognition is horrible I’m sure they’ll take it off.
This is interesting and cool, cause it sounds to me like they only detect for the keyword to "unlock" the Google home, so in theory they don't even need speech recognition. In most cases, they could just do with telling if a sound you make seems to match the sound you defined to be their name ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Unless they wanted to listen for a dog barking, then add "pet food buyer" to your profile data.
There are a lot of very easy use cases for monitoring background noise.
I trust that amongst thousands of people with different incentives at least one will raise their voice if something is not right. At least more so than I trust a corporation with, in this case, the the wrong incentives to self-regulate to my expectations.
Which is not to say that thats not a valid approach - but for it to work we need better tools to handle lots of git repos at once (for example, the ability to get notified about any new code on github that affects your project would be pretty cool, especially if its coming from people or organisations you haven't explicitly marked as trusted yet)
I would like to see someone try and sneak rogue commits into Linux. It would be quite the feat.
What? Who "injected" what and when?
As is tradition, just read "reflections on trusting trust":
If you can be confident that Project Alias does not have network access, then the worst possible scenario, even if the developers are literally Satan, is that Google Home would be doing exactly what it does without Project Alias attached.
Project Alias whispers to my Amazon Echo "Call Secret Project Alias Man in the Middle"
Project Alias requires no network connection to do nefarious things.
So yeah, this project turns the raspberry pi into an internet connected listening device.
If the false positives give them data that increases the value of your marketing profile by more than the cost of processing the interactions then they actively profit from false positives, and have no reason at all to stop them.
There's a feature in my Pixel to show what song is playing --like in the real world-- on the lock screen. A kind of always-on Shazam.
They don't mind paying for always on.
Arguing that the technology doesn't do this does not address the underlying root perception that Amazon and Google are not to be trusted.
Google built its entire business on harvesting _all_ data on the web and building an infrastructure to process it efficiently. Purchasing Nest made clear that to us that they now wish to harvest data from the home. If they were able, socially and politically, to harvest _all_ data from the home, their history indicates that they would do so with all possible speed.
Having a device you built yourself that learns locally and is under your control prevents Amazon and Google from changing their mind about what level of recording is acceptable without your informed opt-in consent at the time of the change. Both providers reserve the right to update their privacy policies without notification or consent, including granting themselves to increase data collection.
TLDR: This device is the physical expression of mistrust of Amazon and Google. Their greed for your metadata is well-documented, and their policies let them increase data collection in your home at any time without your consent. Such increases would be prevented by this device.
Or if you have reference firmware I can load, that would be awesome... What do you mean its closed firmware and controlled by Amazon/Google? You mean they can change it whenever they wish, and we have no say???
Long story short; you rented a spy device and you trust some random person online it isn't spying... Even though there are credible stories of these devices doing precisely that.
No, no, absolutely not, and hell no!
Every cellphone in the world has a microphone that could be listening all the time and sending data anywhere. So does most every computer. It's a better threat vector by 1000x, more stealthy, easier to conceal traffic. But all anyone ever talks about is a device designed to listen to you talk because hey, so obvious, big brother MUST be listening in there!
Here’s a parallel construct: It would be trivial for Microsoft to have a key logger in Windows that sent every keystroke to Redmond.
Why does anyone trust that they are not doing it?
Indeed, they could scan your computer for whatever data they like and send it to Redmond. But no one even suspects it, or at least at nowhere near the level people seem to distrust Amazon and Google over sending your voice to them full-time.
This is what I mean by Misplaced Distrust. We already trust Google and Amazon with far more of our personal data without a thought.
But a microphone? Ooh, scary!
Non-techie users would absolutely notice that their data and battery is being used up in the background pretty quickly. Further, the cell networks simply could not support that kind of usage from every single subscriber at the same time.
The feds have been using cellphones as full-bore wiretaps since the early 2000s when they used it on mobster's
"dumbphones". I'm sure they've figured out clever exfiltration techniques on smartphones by now.
Especially considering how willing the ISPs/telecom companies are to bend over backwards to hide surveillance. Even 3g/4g wiretapping is probably feasible.
Also it is ironic because all modern cellphones have the whole smart speaker thing built into them but people aren't freaking out about that in the same way. (Probably because they haven't realized it. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯)
Actually, they are.
The majority of "ordinary" people I interact with believe Facebook is listening to their conversations 24/7. It's been brought up multiple times on HN.
I see this a bunch when people say, they talked about an item with someone then google showed them an ad. Sure, perhaps all that data is being processed, but more likely, it's predictive and they know who in your social circle knows about this item. Your friend read a story about it, searched for it on amazon.
People are still in this mode where they don't realize how much info leaks without capturing any conversation, and how good prediction is/can be at this point. So the only explanation is that we're being spied on all the time because I don't think people can wrap their minds around prediction models that are this good.
There are stories from 10 years ago of advertising agencies knowing that someone is pregnant before they did and ten years later, the general public assumes they have to have the original thought first so FAAMG knows what to sell them.
Which is to their point because this is more an example of dunning-krugers with technology than anything else. Those "ordinary" people are data dumb, and project their own explanations onto data joining, which in this case they can only explain as 24/7 microphone recording.
In the case of your phone, you'd get about an hour of battery life. Reasonably accurate speech recognition requires several orders of magnitude more computation than wake word detection.
On-chip speech-to-text has been around since the 80's. It's not expensive to implement, especially with modern manufacturing.
or degrade the performance of the speech-to-text
How accurate does it need to be? All the spy corporations need is a stream of keywords.
Also disingenous to consider the smart speaker that works without cell reception in the same category. Those that require cell reception to work are just as circumspect as Alexa/Google.
But yes this device does not address what data is captured after you have engaged your smart assistant (nor is trying to address that issue)
The reality is that conspiracy theorists aren't interested in learning how things actually work, which is why they're conspiracy theorists.
In reality your phone is a significantly bigger threat to privacy both in terms of normal day to day monitoring (e.g. location tracking) and even listening in (a closed source baseband that can communicate on a platform you cannot even monitor).
When people see the GPS is on all the time or can look up their location data off their phone, it feels uncomfortable, but then they make un-encrypted phone calls through ma bell and let their location get sold.
People are really bad a privacy and key on these obvious, invasive feeling, technologies but then miss the bigger picture.
Conspiracy theorists have less faith in authority figures, which is why they're conspiracy theorists.
Whilst offline, is it possible for the device to store audio?
Is all writable storage auditable by users?
So far nothing's happened...
I would like to make an edit: functionality for those with disabilities is a huge use-case I did not consider. Thank you for your insightful comments
* Turning on/off lights
* Changing the thermostat set temp
* Asking about the weather forecast
* Add items to a shopping list
* Playing music
If you can't imagine a voice interface being appreciably better than a phone interface for these things, I recommend withholding judgment until you've tried it.
Also, to be very clear (since some people have a knack for arguing points I never made), I'm explicitly not saying that the current hot-mic implementation is technically necessary or ideal, nor that these conveniences justify the privacy tradeoff.
Obviously not every action is easier or more optimal by voice, but having the option is great.
Many people today grew up with cellphones in their cribs. They have no idea what information starvation is like. The experience of receiving information you've been waiting for for weeks or months is exhilarating.
Anyway, when you take the library experience versus the experience of pulling up information from a cellphone the improvement is astronomical. From cellphone to voice assistant, the improvement seems very marginal.
Cell phones even represented a distinct advantage over desktops and laptops in that they were always there on your person. Cell phones opened up the possibility to look up information anywhere. With voice assistants it seems the only advantage you gain over cell phones in that you don't have to use your fingers. That doesn't seem very life changing by comparison, unless you don't have fingers, in which case I will admit your life would be vastly improved.
But the downside is that you're connecting a always-on microphone access to mega-corporations who are looking to monetize your existence. For those of us who grew up without the internet or cell phones the trade-off just makes zero sense. We're willing to use cell phones because they open up new worlds of information access. But voice assistants just seems to create more problems than they solve.
Yes, you're right, the voice interface is not the astronomical leap that the cellphone was. But why is that your cutoff line?
My voice assistants offer a lot of benefit to me. Especially with kids, I don't always have a free hand to pull out the cell phone. When my daughter was an infant, it was super convenient to ask it to play soft music as she was falling asleep without having to put her down. Now it's super nice to be able to set multiple timers as I cook with just my voice, instead of trying to fumble with multiple timers on my phone or stove.
I'm not paranoid to think that they are recording everything, because I understand that there would be no ROI for the company to do so with the storage and bandwidth that would be required. And therefore there really isn't much tradeoff at all. Google is already recording every search I do -- does it matter if I use my phone or my Google Home?
IE, using voice commands is a downgrade IMO. Voice commands are not directly discoverable, and there's a lot more magic boxes.
I have yet to find a use case for modern voice control that required more than a passing thought about how to word things. Even my technologically illiterate parents can use these devices with relative ease, especially compared to smart phone and desktop computer UIs. Have you actually tried out these devices or are you just assuming they're as bad as they were 20 years ago?
Compare this to the number of taps required to do so in the hue app
Also, an interaction I had last week:
add x to my shopping list.
ok, I will add x to my shopping list, anything else?
. . .
But I can't add a list, add pears, apples, and oatmeal to my shopping list.
So If I have raw chicken on my hands and want to add shit to my list, it takes so god damn long that I want to punch the fucking thing.
Its rather some deeper info that first few lines of wikipedia article covers, sometimes more. Is your use case valid? For sure for you. But it wouldn't be enough for me, not for the price, upfront and hidden, not for the creepiness it potentially brings. The real time and energy saved for me would be tiny - but that's me. I can still do a bit of 'work' myself.
This reminds me of my recent trip to Aconcagua, highest peak in South (both) America. One US lady had this electric air mattress inflater, and she ran off the charge. She was bragging how smart is she for having such appliances. Rest of the group just smiled and inflated our mattress ourselves, even in 6000m high camp. If you can't do 10 full lungs blows yourself and spend that 1 minute preparing mattress, you shouldn't be up there, by huge margin.
Any one of those things are just a tiny little convenience, but it adds up, and while I bought one just to see what they'd be like not expecting to use it that much, I now use them dozens of times a day.
If you don't have kids, you have no idea how loud and aggressively they will scream when they want something, and especially when these devices are visible to them (if you "need" to respond to a text message, etc).
Yes, it is a devil's bargain. Yes, I'm sure some families are able to, through sheer force of will, completely restrict access to technology. In my family, we are acknowledging we have lost the battle to prevent them from using technology and are seeking solutions that help them manage their desires and create healthy boundaries. I guess we can all argue over what is "healthy" and "normal."
Things like Google Home and Family Link (all from Google) do allow us to control access in a way that I prefer.
So, this "hack" is really exciting because I do care that my two year old already knows Google as a brand.
I'm open to hearing suggestions and have even attempted to build my own open source alternatives, but using voice is a modality that is preferable for so many reasons, and I don't see alternatives that won't be worse.
There is nothing magical about technology, it's just an application of age-old parenting principles. And there's nothing particularly harmful about technology either, there should be no grand battle: you define the limits and the children should stick to them and respect you as a parent. This is true for all things children want to do, from screaming and playing indoors to accessing communal devices to getting their own devices when you, as a parent determine they should.
Do you have kids, or did you read this somewhere?
What age old parenting techniques are you talking about? The ones older people reminisce about when they lament how bad young people are today? Do you have a source backing up the efficacy of those "proven" techniques?
I'm shocked: Why does your two year old need to know Google as a brand? How or why is this valuable to you? Do you expect Google to exist forever? Its entire revenue model is built on ads. Companies with more robust revenue streams have gone bankrupt in shorter timeframes.
I never said I want my two year old to know the Google brand. She hears her older siblings saying it. It is just what is so with her. But guess what? I'm willing to wager my kids aren't the only ones who learned things from their siblings that their parents don't want them to know about, at least at that moment. My kids are not playing with Barbies and I'm pretty sure body image issues with girls are much worse than exposure to Daniel Tiger.
As for parenting, we may just agree to disagree. I concur with your assessment that siblings will definitely teach more than parents. That's to be expected. We just would never reward bad behaviour with acquiescence. But to each his own. Our seven-year old has wide latitude when it comes to choices and actions, but he also realizes that the consequences of those actions are not in his control. We gave him his own iPad at the age of 3 and access to his own real spending money in Grade 1. He gets to decide what to spend it on. At the same time, we've made it clear to him that poor impulse control and bad behaviour will never get him what he wants. He negotiates everything, including daily bedtime or routine tasks, and we're perfectly fine with that. It seems to align well with his personality, and builds some valuable life skills.
Totally align with not giving in to screaming and yelling, and I'm consistent (or at least aware) about that, but when my youngest is sick and just went down for a nap, well...
Those are good points you make and I'll hope to recall those techniques with my just turned six year old. As you say, building valuable life skills.
No one cares if you don’t want to use it. No one needs to justify why they want to use one to you.
Someone who thinks these things are a gimmick, and a harmful gimmick at that, is right to express an opinion about the value these devices add. The same way I'd encourage a friend to quit chain smoking tobacco cigarettes, and not visit his house with my family if it were full of secondhand smoke.
Relevant xkcd: https://xkcd.com/1807/
At some point, I would think he would say it’s none of your business.
This will create a lot less noise, which drowns out any meaningful discussion.
For instance, saying that I use a piece of technology because it’s like a recreational drug is not very convincing.
Addressing the line between having an always listening smartphone with a gps, would be a great place to start.
Also, obligatory http://www.paulgraham.com/say.html
I realize we are quibbling the definition of "nutbar", but my line is drawn at the extreme end, not the moderate end. It's one thing to advocate Haskell as the perfect language for building an OS (crazy talk, but I support it) and quite another to advocate violent uprising against minorities in society (a la StormFront). I hope we can agree that there's a distinction at play here.
I would of course prefer dear friends listening in, but who knows what life will bring.
This seems a lot like "old man yells at cloud". The same could be said for personal computers 40 years ago.
Imagine if you couldn't use your hands or interact with technology due to a disability - these devices would make the world so much easier to interact with.
But do we really need technology to save us any more time? Are we really filling the empty time with worthwhile activities?
In the iOS ecosystem, Siri can be set up to only listen in response to a button-press (don't remember which is default), and the watch only listens on wrist-raise. Those at least creates some physical barrier to passive listening, even if it requires a certain degree of trust in the devices.
Sure, that's assuming you trust Apple (if you don't, then you might imagine that those settings don't actually do what they say they do). If you trust them, then you're fine. If you're in Google's ecosystem, and you trust Google, then you're fine. Ditto for Amazon. But the point here is that people don't trust these entities.
And then somehow target a smart home speaker, while simultaneously carrying around an always-on, always-connected, geo-located, potential listening device in their pocket, all day long.
In fact, the nokia 3310 would probably be even less secure than modern phones.
The way I see it is if you already own a smartphone then echo or home don't really add additional exposure.
I flipped the hardware mic switch off on it, to try to make it a dumb wifi speaker instead of a "smart" one. Then I built a software alarm clock that forces me to leave the room after I wake up in order to turn it off.
For me, it's very important for my alarm clock to be both effective, and to always work. The alarm clock runs as a remote task and connects directly to the mini, telling it to play an MP3 from the local network (by IP because the mini ignores DHCP DNS server). If I hit the mini touch controls to turn it off, the software starts playing a different MP3 a second later. If I try to unplug the cable from the device, duct tape stops me. Thoughtful wrapping of the cable around a solid furniture post prevents any yanking from being effective at tearing it out of the wall. If one mini is down (fairly rare but possible point of failure), the other one is attempted.
So, it's fairly impossible for me to just turn it off without waking up and giving it a bit more thought. I have to leave the room and tap a button on a touch screen (ubuntu in kiosk mode reaching web app on local network).
The unfortunately fatal flaw is that after months of effective use, I recently discovered that my highly available alarm clock was not actually highly available. It breaks when the internet is out. I could not connect over local network. There's always the possibility that something else was a factor, but I reproduced it a couple of times intentionally.
It also concerns me that the mini doesn't require authentication. Anyone on the local network can directly reach the device and do the same thing. A script meant as an alarm clock could turn into a device of psychological torment in someone elses hands. This lack of authentication, and the ability to auto-discover the speakers, is probably something they consider a 'feature'. I don't like seeing Chrome waste system resources in its attempt to scan my local network on the off chance that Google's speakers are there. And I don't want it to reach out to those speakers when it does find them. But it does it anyway.
In the end, with the microphone disregarded, it's a cheap wifi speaker. I won't count Chrome's bad behavior against it, but its software could be improved by offering (any) secure connection options. The lack of internet as a single point of failure dooms any kind of gadgetry with a reliability requirement from using it. It can't be considered reliable enough for serious tasks like waking you up for work or a flight unless they fix the software to work in a local-network-only mode. But, it is cheap, and, well, mostly available, which is often good enough for to-hand use cases.
Speculation: Is the lack of mini's heartbeat phoning home Google's own way of determining network reliability across wide geographic areas (eg, the lack of data in an aggregate area)? But they probably know this already from the wide spread of Android devices. Or do they maybe just not want their device to work unless it can reach back to them?
You're still relying on a piece of software to make the wake-word assessment and hand off the audio to the cloud. Now you're just adding more hardware parts to fail.
If your argument is that you trust your software more than Amazon's, then you shouldn't need anything more than a single microphone anyways because why would you surveil yourself?
For the same reason nginx usually runs as a separate user: people make mistakes and security vulnerabilities happen. Security in depth is a good thing.
Like hey, let's install some under developed AI from some unknown company with unknown security policies on top of a device with access to hordes of personal data and the ability to make transactions online.
No hacker will EVER think to use it as an attack vector /s
There's no good reason for it to require that information for a request like like "play XYZ on YouTube".
A few horror stories related to Alex hint that it might not be doing a very good job. The grammar/syntax it uses to wake is much more complex than what Alias is proposing as a safe alternative. The most blatant example would be the Portland, OR couple that found the Alexa device making phone calls to people as they had a discussion near it.
As a bonus, maybe your device could understand "Alexa..." and "OK Google..." and send to the relevant API. Use Alexa for shopping and Google for searches?
With either Alias, or an homebrew solution you're sending the query portion ("How many teaspoons are in a tablespoon?") to the megacorp?
>hardware device (eg Raspberry Pi) that listens for a wake up then sends to the API?