The recent incident of a smart speaker secretly recording a couple’s conversation and sending it to one of their contacts has implanted a seed of doubt in every smart speaker’s user. While manufacturers assure their customers of protecting their privacy, it often gets tough to believe in their claims. In Amazon’s case, for example, the company said that the device mistook one of the words in their conversation as its call sign and sent a recorded message to their contact, all while asking them.
Now, there could have been multiple reasons as to how the incident took place. However, smart speaker manufacturers build in some ways to physically stop these smart speakers from invading your privacy, even if the software goes rogue. If you have just got yourself a smart speaker, then we suggest you should go through these pointers if safeguarding your privacy is of prime importance.
Mute the microphone/camera when not needed
Every smart speaker comes with a physical button to disable the microphone on smart speakers. If you own a Google Home or any of Amazon’s Echo devices, you can locate a physical button that’s dedicated to turning off the microphone when not needed. On Amazon’s Echo Spot, the same button also disables the camera. Apple’s HomePod doesn’t have any button, but you can ask Siri to mute the microphone.
Turn up the volume to the max
This might seem impractical, but it’s one of the safest ways to detect activity on these speakers if the call word is initiated by accident. A higher volume will draw attention to the device if it has recorded something and is asking permission to send it to one of your contacts.
Keep it disconnected from the Wi-Fi
When you are sure that you won’t need the smart speaker active for a considerable amount of time — for example, while enjoying a movie on your TV, then it’s wise to disconnect it from the network. A disconnected smart speaker is as good as a dumb wireless speaker.
Don’t give access to contacts
Now, this might be slightly impractical and may defeat the purpose of a smart speaker. However, if you are suspicious of your smart speaker secretly recording stuff and sending it to random contacts, then it’s wise to block it from gaining access to your phonebook. With no contacts on its server, the speaker won’t be able to send it to anyone.
Turn off calling and messaging
While most smart speakers come with these enabled by default, seeking assistance from customer service will help you turn off calling and messaging. Without these features, your smart speaker is limited to a voice-based search engine, eradicating any sort of doubt about the speaker sending your conversation to your contacts.
Lastly, don’t buy one, if you are suspicious
This is a logical advice if you are suspicious of these smart devices spying on you, even when you have tried all of the stuff mentioned here. Despite manufacturers building in security measures, you won’t be able to use one in a way it’s meant to if you lack trust on these devices. If all you want is a voice assistant helping you out, you can rely on your smartphone and connect it to a wireless speaker, although you still run the risk of being tracked by your phone too.
With inputs from CNN