Now that Siri, Alexa, Cortana, and their friends are pretty well established as commonplace services in homes, apartments, and hotel rooms, and people have demonstrated their willingness to accept and rely on devices with always-on microphones and cameras, the companies that make them are sneaking more weasel words into their nominal commitments to user privacy.
The peg for this story is the reporter's discovery of patent applications, filed by Amazon and Google, for using the data generated by continuous monitoring of the always-on mikes to target advertising more accurately, to determine people's moods, to infer their state of health, to find out whether a child is up to some minor mischief (and generate an appropriate reprimand), and so on. As the reporter points out, companies often generate patent applications like these regardless of whether they have any intention of using the technology (and, indeed, regardless of whether the technology would actually work). On the other hand, such documents reveal how the big surveillance capitalism companies are thinking about the future of their products and express in a more genuine and sincere way the companies' attitudes towards the privacy of their users.
“Hey, Alexa, What Can You Hear? And What Will You Do with It?”
Sapna Maheshwari, The New York Times, March 31, 2018