While I agree with the intention of your article; to pour some worthy skepticism on irrational, scaremongering articles, I think we should be careful to clarify the full meaning of spying.

I agree there are not many humans actually listening to anyone’s recordings. But you can be sure that all are 100% evaluated by speech-to-text algorithms of some description or another.

As a bare minimum, one such algorithm is needed just to pick out the keywords which are recognised and acknowledged by the system.

If you think about that, you should realise that all sound within hearing distance of it has to be continuously analysed, whether the user has commanded it to do anything, or not.

You can be sure that in addition to the command keywords, there are further algorithms searching for keywords associated with other products that the platform might be able to sell to the user. For example, a database of chargeable music can be accessible by an algorithm, which scans the incoming sound channel for all chat concerning music, to match what it has to offer, with what it thinks are your preferences.

These things are happening, because it makes profit, and that is what the platform was built for.

The same reasoning covers all manner of products and services that might be offered.

Add this to the fact that the platform then, in response to commands asking to search, will select what it chooses to tell the user, based on what is likely to maximise profit for the platform, and hey presto, you have a system not acting in the best interests of the user.

Add to this a further fact that various other agencies are known to have access to all of these things, and I think we can safely say that we are indeed being spied upon, by these “Virtual assistants”.

Personally, as one of billions of ordinary folk, I don’t worry too much about it. I still choose to use them, if sparingly, because as yet, they can enhance convenience, and there are no practical non-profit alternatives.

But people should be aware of what is really going on, to beware of where it could be going in the future, as the urge to profit continues to take ever higher priority, over what is good or bad for us as individuals, and even as a species.

Solarpunk

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