The Solitaire

The Truth behind the Echo: Can they be used to spy on us?

In the age of technology, when cars drive themselves and smartphones can track their owner’s location down to the nearest ten feet, it is common to be paranoid of electronic devices. Many people cover their webcams using tape or are extremely careful about the information they reveal through text.  This paranoia has increased over the years after much speculation, and it was revealed that government agencies keep tabs on domestic communications. With all the technology present in the modern day home, consumers struggle to recognize which devices are safe and which ones are not.

Amazon Echos are home speakers that are programmed to listen to your every command. These devices are constantly in operation in order to be activated by the user’s command word. This means that the Echo is not recording every conversation conducted within its range, but rather monitoring for a hot word.

“The recent news about police requesting Amazon Echo voice recordings as evidence in a murder investigation has many people wondering how much the voice-controlled speaker is actually recording, and whether the device may have recorded their private conversations in the past,” Variety.com said.

It is better to be cautious than to think everything is perfect.”

— Junior Terra Stevens

After obtaining a search warrant for Amazon’s servers, detectives were unable to find any key pieces of evidence. According to the same source, the amount of data servers would pick up from recording everything would be overwhelming, too difficult to keep track of and would result in a privacy scandal.

Lack of audio evidence in Amazon’s servers was disappointing to the murder investigation, but the information the Echo could have offered is astounding. The speaker still records a wide range of history, from the time a voice command was given to how much water was used in the house. This allows investigators to recreate the night the crime occurred and question the possibility of the murderer cleaning up after themselves.   

Unfortunately, there are major security flaws in the 2015 and 2016 Echo models. According to nypost.com, owners of older versions should be careful with who they let into their homes. If hackers can gain physical access to the speaker, a custom hardware could easily be placed within the Echo, allowing them to listen in on the user’s conversations. However, according to nypost.com, owners of the new 2017 version can rest assured that the new Echo cannot be hacked using this method, but being too cautious can never be a bad thing.

“It is better to be cautious than to think everything is perfect,” junior Terra Stevens said.

It is plausible that such an intelligent device could be capable of being an informant in the privacy of consumer homes. Yet, laptop cameras and smartphone conversions can also be utilized as a way to track targets. Similar to the Echo, any other device with a microphone or camera is capable of being hacked.

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The student publication of Fort Zumwalt West High School
The Truth behind the Echo: Can they be used to spy on us?