It remains to be seen whether smart speakers like those sold by Google and Amazon will have a transformative impact in our lives. But some 47 million people in the U.S. have already accepted Amazon’s Echo into their homes.
In addition to information on a vast array of topics, and the ability to manage your lights or thermostat, the speaker in your kitchen of bedroom also contains a powerful microphone. And though it’s supposed to remain asleep until we awaken it, a woman in Portland, Oregon recently discovered that her family’s Echo device had recorded a conversation between her and her husband, and sent it to someone in their contact list without their knowledge.
Murat Kantarcioglu is a professor of computer science at the University of Texas at Dallas. He says he doesn’t use smart speakers because of potential privacy threats.
“In this scenario, the company claims that there was a bug…and that it’s a very rare case,” Kantarcioglu says. “But in the future, hackers and others can try to hack into these devices, and they can try to record entire conversations.”
Kantarcioglu says a device with the ability to record your conversation could overhear a call with your bank or health care provider, obtaining sensitive personal and financial information you would not wish to share.
ABOUT THE UT DALLAS COMPUTER SCIENCE DEPARTMENT
The UT Dallas Computer Science program is one of the largest Computer Science departments in the United States with over 2,400 bachelors-degree students, more than 1,000 master’s students, 150 Ph.D. students, 53 tenure-track faculty members and 38 full-time senior lecturers, as of Fall 2017. With The University of Texas at Dallas’ unique history of starting as a graduate institution first, the CS Department is built on a legacy of valuing innovative research and providing advanced training for software engineers and computer scientists.