Patents filed by Google and Amazon hint at further monitoring from devices and home assistants in the future.
According to CBS News, which cited a New York Times report, “Each company has filed patent applications that ‘outline an array of possibilities’ for how its devices could monitor more of what users say and do.”
“The information obtained could be used to identify a person’s desires or interests. That data could then be mined for ad targeting and product recommendations,” they explained, adding that, “Google’s patent applications outline how audio and visual signals could be used to determine a speaker’s mood or medical condition.”
“The devices could analyze the ‘volume of the user’s voice, detected breathing rate, crying, and it could detect a user’s coughing and sneezing,” claimed CBS News, while the New York Times reported, “One application details how audio monitoring could help detect that a child is engaging in ‘mischief’ at home by first using speech patterns and pitch to identify a child’s presence.”
“A device could then try to sense movement while listening for whispers or silence, and even program a smart speaker to ‘provide a verbal warning,'” the Times claimed.
In response to the patents, Consumer Watchdog President Jamie Court declared, “When you read parts of the applications, it’s really clear that this is spyware and a surveillance system meant to serve you up to advertisers.”
However, both Google and Amazon denied claims they were looking to take advantage of consumer data, with Amazon issuing a statement that claimed the company took “privacy seriously,” and had only filed “a number of forward-looking patent applications that explore the full possibilities of new technology.”
In their own statement, Google claimed they did not “use raw audio to extrapolate moods, medical conditions or demographic information,” and assured customers that, “All devices that come with the Google Assistant, including Google Home, are designed with user privacy in mind.”