Pew: Majority of Smart Speaker Users Concerned about Privacy and Eavesdropping

Apple apologizes for listening to Siri talk, sets new rules

A majority of smart speaker owners in the United States are concerned about privacy and their devices’ ability to collect personal data, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center.

The study published Thursday addresses mounting concerns among consumers that smart speakers manufactured by companies like Amazon and Google are eavesdropping on users and recording conversations that can then be used against them in legal situations.

Pew’s study found that just over half of smart speaker owners are “at least somewhat concerned” about the amount of data collected by these devices, while 54 percent of smart speaker owners — or about 13 percent of all U.S. adults — said they are “very or somewhat concerned” about the amount of personal data their speakers collect.

The results also showed that Americans are “wary” of data from smart speakers being used in criminal investigations.

Pew found that 49 percent of Americans said it is “unacceptable” for the makers of smart speakers to share audio recordings of their customers with law enforcement in order to help with criminal investigations, while just 25 percent said it is acceptable.

When it comes to assessing potential terrorist threats, public opinion differs. Pew found that 49 percent of U.S. adults say it is acceptable for the government to collect data about all Americans.

Concern about smart speakers continues to grow amid reports of possible security flaws and vulnerabilities.

A recent report claimed that Amazon Alexa and Google Home smart speakers can be targeted by malicious apps that use the devices to listen in on users and steal passwords. Another report found that Chinese tech manufacturer Huawei and Google were working together on a new home smart device before the U.S. placed restrictions on doing business with Huawei.

A Google executive admitted during a recent interview that he would disclose to guests entering his home that smart speakers are present.

Smart speaker ownership varies across the country. The Pew report estimates that one-quarter of U.S. adults have a smart speaker in their home, with adults younger than 50 more likely to own such a device than those older than 50.

Smart-speaker ownership drops significantly among those whose annual family income falls below $30,000.

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