You think you're all over Amazon now? Wait until you install an Amazon Echo in your house. The totally voluntary piece of spyware responds to all your requests like, "I wonder what the weather's going to be like" to "what's that song?" to "how can I get a pair of those shoes?"
The Internet giant has been testing the device and not everyone likes it. The New York Post interviewed a 16-year-old whose mom put on in the teen's room. After a month, Aanya Nigam, who is otherwise very active on social media, started getting creeped out and unhooked it.
The $180 Echo works on voice-recognition technology, not unlike your iPhone's Siri. The difference is, it's always on—unless you move to turn it off. It's also unclear whether it collects data about the people whose voices it analyzes and shops for—which is why the Federal Trade Commission is kind of iffy on them.
Kristen Anderson, an attorney with the commission's division of privacy and identity protection, said voice-recognition devices should collect as little information as possible and should be set to delete the information regularly.
Though Amazon says there's nothing to worry about, the company claims the device doesn't work as well if it doesn't have access to the audio history of its users.
These concerns aren't limited to Amazon Echo. Earlier this year, the launch of Hello Barbie stunned parents and privacy advocates, who were concerned about the play toys ability (and sole purpose) of listening into children's conversations to gain market insight for the company's bottom-line.
Even through reviews of the product are generally good—apparently, one-click on a screen is now too much effort to buy stuff of questionable necessity—people who are paid to think of these things raise the confer that Internet-connected microphones could be used as wiretaps, either by consumer corporations or governments or even intruders who get their hands on the equipment.
"We are on the trajectory of a future filled with voice-assisted apps and voice-assisted devices," Forrester Research analyst Fatemeh Khatibloo told the NY Post. "This is going to require finding the fine balance between creating a really great user experience and something that's creepy."