Is Your Smart Device Listening? Johnson Nguyen Analyzes the Risks and Benefits of Always-On Technology

When smart speakers were first released, the world was amazed by their ability to properly hear and react to what was going on around them. For years, technology companies had been trying to reach this milestone with varying degrees of success but had never quite gotten it right. Fast forward to today, and nearly every home has at least one device capable of listening to its surroundings and processing this information.

As with every other product, however, there are some downsides to these revolutionary inventions. The most important one relates to certain privacy concerns. Namely, the fact that smart devices can have a conversation with someone means that they have the ability to comprehend language and process it efficiently. For some buyers, this represents an open-door policy to their individual privacy. For instance, having a device that can understand what is going on could eventually translate into a spy that is gathering information about someone’s life. Of course, all of the producers of this technology firmly deny all claims of privacy invasion. So, is there any truth to the matter? In other words, are smart devices actually listening to what is going on around them?

Understand the Underlying Use

In order to answer this question, one has to think about the underlying purpose of smart devices. First and foremost, they are built to do whatever their owner commands them to. Thus, if someone is using them strictly for research purposes, per se, they will be optimized to process data and analyze information quickly. If, however, someone is using them for interactive software that can talk back, they will always be ready to respond. In translation, their natural state will be to listen closely as there might be a command that has to be obeyed. 

Well, this means that people who are buying smart devices should already expect these assets to pay close attention. After all, things like Amazon and Google smart speakers are made to activate after hearing a specific phrase. So, if they are not listening for that phrase at all times, they will be unable to respond appropriately. Hence why people should not be shocked that some of their smart devices are constantly paying attention to their surroundings. 

Data Storing

According to an online marketing expert in Vancouver who leads an international firm, Johnson Nguyen, listening could include much more than just the physical act of hearing someone. For example, the previously mentioned devices have an unparalleled ability to track someone’s browsing and online inquiries. Consider all the times that an online buyer goes to some website as they look for the right item to purchase. As one of the primary functions of almost all smart devices, they will store this data for a prolonged period of time. Thus, in some way, they will be listening to the owner’s behavior by keeping track of all of their spending patterns. 

The problem does not come into play until one tries to follow-up on where exactly this data goes. When smart devices store information, they usually do so because of the preliminary settings. So, users should be able to simply empty their history and remove all of the recorded activity. In some cases, however, companies use the data and sell it outside buyers. Why? Because these buyers can then figure out the right way to run marketing campaigns to people based on their online tendencies. A great depiction of this would be the never-ending advertisements that people will get from companies like Amazon. The reason why this happens is that those organizations create customized advertisements based on someone’s interests that were recorded by their smart devices. 

Reason for Concern?

Given that most high-tech tools are generally always listening and tend to store data, is there a reason for concern? Well, according to Johnson Nguyen, it depends. For people who do not have a lot of trust in the corporate world and higher institutions, there might be an issue. Obviously, there are going to be some virtual intruders in their life. The vast majority of those who use smart devices, however, are nowhere near as worried. Even if there is someone listening, the cases of misused data and virtual spying are not common enough to cause panic. 

Nevertheless, taking the necessary steps to minimize external threats and increase the protection of one’s privacy is something that everyone should do. This can be done by using VPNs, making strong passwords, turning smart devices off during downtime, and similar. People interested in taking things even further can educate themselves on strategies of ghost browsing and complete anonymity on the internet.

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