Some Fears About What Alexa Hears

Amazon Echo Alexa  Getty Images

Amazon Echo Alexa Getty Images

Amazon is the news right now because of the President’s tweets claiming they are not paying their fair share in the way they do business.

But a lot of people have been buzzing about Amazon over a different concern following a New York Times report this past weekend about Alexa, the voice of Amazon’s artificial intelligence device in many homes across the country.

The report is about an application for a patent filed by Amazon for a technology that can collect conversations on the listening devices about topics and things Alexa hears you talking about and possibly use that information to target ads and other uses to get you to buy something.

According to the San Diego Union Tribune, which examined the patent application, says the devices would use what they call a “sniffer algorithm” to identify “trigger words in the voice content, which can indicate a level of interest.”  And in fact the Union Tribune points out that one of the example illustrations in the application by Amazon includes a sample conversation that includes someone saying their kids like the San Diego Zoo, which would become a trigger word overheard by Alexa.

The New York Times report quotes Amazon folks as saying their patent application is about being “forward-looking,” and to explore “possibilities” and doesn’t “necessarily reflect current developments to products and services.”

And all of this is happening at the same time Facebook is under fire for its use of personal profile information.   Wonder what Alexa would say about the novel "1984".

(Photo credit Getty Images)