Welcome!

Adobe Flex Authors: Matthew Lobas, PR.com Newswire, Shelly Palmer, Kevin Benedict

Related Topics: @ThingsExpo, Mobile IoT, Cloud Security

@ThingsExpo: Blog Feed Post

Just How Dangerous Is Alexa? | @ThingsExpo #IoT #M2M #Security

Unless you turn off the mics & use a button or a remote, IVCSs are always listening. Let me be the first to scream ‘Look out!’

The “willing suspension of disbelief” is the idea that the audience (readers, viewers, content consumers) is willing to suspend judgment about the implausibility of the narrative for the quality of the audience’s own enjoyment. We do it all the time. Two-dimensional video on our screens is smaller than life and flat and not in real time, but we ignore those facts and immerse ourselves in the stories as if they were real.

We have also learned the “conventions” of each medium. While we watch a movie or a video, we don’t yell to the characters on the screen “Duck!” or “Look out!” when something is about to happen to them. We just passively enjoy the show.

The Willing Suspension of Our Privacy
We apply similar concepts to our online lives. Most of us are willing to give up our data (location, viewing, purchasing or search history) for our online enjoyment. We can call this the “willing suspension of our privacy” because if you spent a moment to consider what your data was actually being used for, you would refuse to let it happen.

The Willing Suspension of Our Agency
Which brings us to the next level of insanity: the willing suspension of our agency for our own enjoyment. This is past the point of giving up a “reasonable amount” of data or privacy to optimize the capabilities of our digital assistants. Suspension of our agency exposes our normally unmonitored physical activity, innocent mumblings and sequestered conversations. Some people believe this is happening with Alexa, Google Home, Siri and other virtual assistant and IoT systems. It may well be.

First, Let’s Give It a Name
Since we are discussing a combination of automatic speech recognition (ASR) and natural language understanding (NLU) engines that enable a system to instantly recognize and respond to voice requests, for this article, let’s call the interface an intelligent voice control system (IVCS).

How It Works
You activate most commercial IVCSs with a “wake word.” For an Amazon Echo or Echo Dot, you can choose one of three possible wake words, “Alexa” (the default), “Amazon” or “Echo.” Unless you turn off the microphones (the Echo has seven) and use a mechanical button or remote control to activate its capabilities, Alexa Voice Service, the system that powers the Echo and Alexa, and other IVCSs are always listening for their wake word.

In Amazon’s case, it keeps approximately 60 seconds of audio in memory for pre-processing so the responses can be situationally aware and “instant.” Amazon says the listening is done locally, on the device, not in the cloud. So technically, the audio does not leave the premises.

Always Listening Does Not Mean Always Transmitting
Yes, an IVCS is always listening AND recording. Which raises the question, “What does it do with the recordings it does not use?” In Amazon’s case, the official answer is that they are erased as they are replaced with the most current 60 seconds. So while the system locally stores approximately 60 seconds of audio preceding your wake word, it transmits only a “fraction of a second” of audio preceding your wake word, plus your actual query and the system’s response. For Alexa, you can find a record of your query on the Home screen of your Alexa app.

More Questions
What happens to the approximately 60 seconds of audio recording preceding a wake word? The one that has a recording of the TV soundtrack, footsteps, the loud argument in the next room, the gunshot, etc.? What happens with that audio? Again, Amazon says it is erased and replaced with the next 60 seconds of audio. Skeptics say if a wake word is detected, the previous 60-ish seconds of audio is put in a database for further IVCS training. If so, could that audio be subpoenaed? Yep! Just like your browser history or phone records. It’s just data. But does it actually exist? Amazon says no. As for other systems? We’ll have to ask.

What About Hackers?
Seven microphones! Could a hacker tap into one or all of them and eavesdrop on me? The official answer is no, and specific technical reasons are cited. However, at The Palmer Group we have several theses for 2017 including, “Anything that can be hacked will be hacked.” Anyone who believes otherwise is simply naïve.

“It’s the Profile, Stupid!”
Data is more powerful in the presence of other data. It is an immutable law of 21st-century living, which in this case means that the most serious threat to each of us is the profile that can be created with the willing suspension of our agency.

Most people have no idea how much information about them is available for sale. The willing suspension of agency has the potential to take us right up to the line that separates where we are now from an Orwellian future. (Many people believe we already live in a surveillance state. We’ll explore this in another article.)

We Must Deal with This Sooner or Later
Alexa is NOT dangerous. The data it collects is NOT dangerous. Nothing about an Amazon Echo is dangerous. It’s awesome. I have one in the kitchen, in the living room, in my home office, and on my night table. It’s an amazing controller, great alarm clock, spectacular Spotify and Amazon Prime interface, an exceptional news and weather reporter, and it does lots of other stuff you can look up online. I love it.

I also love my Google Home. Its ASR/NLU system is second to none. Let’s face it: Google is “the” repository of publicly available knowledge. When I’m on my handheld, I rely on “OK Google,” and while I think Siri is audio impaired and database challenged, sometimes I use it too.

But …

The world will be a very different place when Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Apple and other AI-empowered players have assembled first-party profile data that includes our agency. It will make what they do with our current behavioral profiles look like primitive data processing.

We are predisposed to pay for convenience. We happily do it with cash and with data every day. However, we should not suspend our judgment about the implausibility of this narrative for convenience or for the quality of our enjoyment. Though this is a story we have been told before, there are no conventions of this medium. So let me be the first to scream: “Look out!”

The post Just How Dangerous Is Alexa? originally appeared here on Shelly Palmer

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Shelly Palmer

Shelly Palmer is the host of Fox Television’s "Shelly Palmer Digital Living" television show about living and working in a digital world. He is Fox 5′s (WNYW-TV New York) Tech Expert and the host of United Stations Radio Network’s, MediaBytes, a daily syndicated radio report that features insightful commentary and a unique insiders take on the biggest stories in technology, media, and entertainment.

@ThingsExpo Stories
22nd International Cloud Expo, taking place June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and co-located with the 1st DXWorld Expo will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud ...
"Cloud Academy is an enterprise training platform for the cloud, specifically public clouds. We offer guided learning experiences on AWS, Azure, Google Cloud and all the surrounding methodologies and technologies that you need to know and your teams need to know in order to leverage the full benefits of the cloud," explained Alex Brower, VP of Marketing at Cloud Academy, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clar...
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Carl J. Levine, Senior Technical Evangelist for NS1, will objectively discuss how DNS is used to solve Digital Transformation challenges in large SaaS applications, CDNs, AdTech platforms, and other demanding use cases. Carl J. Levine is the Senior Technical Evangelist for NS1. A veteran of the Internet Infrastructure space, he has over a decade of experience with startups, networking protocols and Internet infrastructure, combined with the unique ability to it...
"IBM is really all in on blockchain. We take a look at sort of the history of blockchain ledger technologies. It started out with bitcoin, Ethereum, and IBM evaluated these particular blockchain technologies and found they were anonymous and permissionless and that many companies were looking for permissioned blockchain," stated René Bostic, Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Conventi...
Gemini is Yahoo’s native and search advertising platform. To ensure the quality of a complex distributed system that spans multiple products and components and across various desktop websites and mobile app and web experiences – both Yahoo owned and operated and third-party syndication (supply), with complex interaction with more than a billion users and numerous advertisers globally (demand) – it becomes imperative to automate a set of end-to-end tests 24x7 to detect bugs and regression. In th...
Widespread fragmentation is stalling the growth of the IIoT and making it difficult for partners to work together. The number of software platforms, apps, hardware and connectivity standards is creating paralysis among businesses that are afraid of being locked into a solution. EdgeX Foundry is unifying the community around a common IoT edge framework and an ecosystem of interoperable components.
"MobiDev is a software development company and we do complex, custom software development for everybody from entrepreneurs to large enterprises," explained Alan Winters, U.S. Head of Business Development at MobiDev, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Large industrial manufacturing organizations are adopting the agile principles of cloud software companies. The industrial manufacturing development process has not scaled over time. Now that design CAD teams are geographically distributed, centralizing their work is key. With large multi-gigabyte projects, outdated tools have stifled industrial team agility, time-to-market milestones, and impacted P&L stakeholders.
"Akvelon is a software development company and we also provide consultancy services to folks who are looking to scale or accelerate their engineering roadmaps," explained Jeremiah Mothersell, Marketing Manager at Akvelon, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"Space Monkey by Vivent Smart Home is a product that is a distributed cloud-based edge storage network. Vivent Smart Home, our parent company, is a smart home provider that places a lot of hard drives across homes in North America," explained JT Olds, Director of Engineering, and Brandon Crowfeather, Product Manager, at Vivint Smart Home, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Coca-Cola’s Google powered digital signage system lays the groundwork for a more valuable connection between Coke and its customers. Digital signs pair software with high-resolution displays so that a message can be changed instantly based on what the operator wants to communicate or sell. In their Day 3 Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Chambers, Global Group Director, Digital Innovation, Coca-Cola, and Vidya Nagarajan, a Senior Product Manager at Google, discussed how from store operations and ...
"There's plenty of bandwidth out there but it's never in the right place. So what Cedexis does is uses data to work out the best pathways to get data from the origin to the person who wants to get it," explained Simon Jones, Evangelist and Head of Marketing at Cedexis, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
SYS-CON Events announced today that CrowdReviews.com has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 22nd International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 5–7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. CrowdReviews.com is a transparent online platform for determining which products and services are the best based on the opinion of the crowd. The crowd consists of Internet users that have experienced products and services first-hand and have an interest in letting other potential buye...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Telecom Reseller has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 22nd International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Telecom Reseller reports on Unified Communications, UCaaS, BPaaS for enterprise and SMBs. They report extensively on both customer premises based solutions such as IP-PBX as well as cloud based and hosted platforms.
It is of utmost importance for the future success of WebRTC to ensure that interoperability is operational between web browsers and any WebRTC-compliant client. To be guaranteed as operational and effective, interoperability must be tested extensively by establishing WebRTC data and media connections between different web browsers running on different devices and operating systems. In his session at WebRTC Summit at @ThingsExpo, Dr. Alex Gouaillard, CEO and Founder of CoSMo Software, presented ...
WebRTC is great technology to build your own communication tools. It will be even more exciting experience it with advanced devices, such as a 360 Camera, 360 microphone, and a depth sensor camera. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Masashi Ganeko, a manager at INFOCOM Corporation, introduced two experimental projects from his team and what they learned from them. "Shotoku Tamago" uses the robot audition software HARK to track speakers in 360 video of a remote party. "Virtual Teleport" uses a multip...
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, whic...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Evatronix will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Evatronix SA offers comprehensive solutions in the design and implementation of electronic systems, in CAD / CAM deployment, and also is a designer and manufacturer of advanced 3D scanners for professional applications.
Leading companies, from the Global Fortune 500 to the smallest companies, are adopting hybrid cloud as the path to business advantage. Hybrid cloud depends on cloud services and on-premises infrastructure working in unison. Successful implementations require new levels of data mobility, enabled by an automated and seamless flow across on-premises and cloud resources. In his general session at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Tevis, an IBM Storage Software Technical Strategist and Customer Solution Architec...
To get the most out of their data, successful companies are not focusing on queries and data lakes, they are actively integrating analytics into their operations with a data-first application development approach. Real-time adjustments to improve revenues, reduce costs, or mitigate risk rely on applications that minimize latency on a variety of data sources. In his session at @BigDataExpo, Jack Norris, Senior Vice President, Data and Applications at MapR Technologies, reviewed best practices to ...