Echo Alexa and the Smart Home Conundrum

November 6, 2020

Technology has made our lives more convenient in a number of ways. We can now ask AI systems like Siri to send a text message, tell us the weather, or play a certain song. At the same time, this technology has complicated our lives, making us paranoid about the potential security threats this technology could pose. Whether we want it to or not, this technology has started to invade homes, allowing us to control the lighting, temperature, and security with simply our voice. The smart home market is on the rise and will undeniably become the standard in the near future. According to Statista, the value of the smart home market in North America is predicted to reach $27 billion by 2021. Is all this convenience really worth it? Let’s take a look at some of the ways smart home technology may have a negative impact on homeowners:

Hacking

Smart speakers like the Amazon Echo and Google Home have the possibility of being hacked just like any other piece of technology. In fact, a British researcher named Mark Barnes was able to successfully install malware on his Amazon Echo. This turned the smart speaker into a surveillance device, allowing Barnes to listen in on conversations that took place near the device. No homeowner would want anyone to be able to spy on him or her like this. This malware could also allow hackers to steal account information and attack parts of the homeowner’s network.

Location Tracking

Craig Young, a security researcher, recently discovered a glitch in Google Home devices that can cause location information about the homeowner to be traced. The location information was very specific too, within roughly 30 feet of the device. Google is said to be aware of this issue and is going to release a patch later this summer. Still, the fact that this kind of location tracking is possible may make some homeowners uneasy.

Invading Privacy

Recently, a homeowner in Oregon named Danielle was shocked to learn that her Amazon Echo secretly recorded one of her conversations. The conversation was then sent to a phone number on her contact list. Apparently, while Danielle was having a private conversation near the device, it picked up a wake word. A wake word is a word that signals the Echo device to begin listening to the user. For example, to talk to the Amazon Echo, you can say Alexa or Echo. Somehow, Danielle’s conversation triggered the device to record the conversation and send it to her family friend. Seems pretty suspicious.

The Impact on Real Estate

As we mentioned above, the smart home market is expanding across the nation. The surveillance capabilities of the devices could serve as a way for some sellers to spy on prospective homebuyers. This is something that has already begun taking place in homes with other surveillance systems, as we mentioned in an earlier post. It is ultimately up to the discretion of the homebuyer to decide whether or not a smart home is worth the risk.

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