What is Amazon Alexa?
Amazon Alexa or Alexa is a smart speaker developed by Amazon. It lets you speak your wishes and see them fulfilled within no time. From asking her about the weather to playing your favorite music, she can do it all. It’s also programmed to have a conversation with you, this is applicable when you’re alone and bored. We can say that Alexa is similar to the virtual assistants provided by Apple (Siri) and Google (Google assistant) except it’s in a physical form of a speaker.
Now let’s dig into this conspiracy theory and see for ourselves whether it is creepy or not.
Is Amazon Alexa Listening to you all the time?
Now as you know what Alexa is all about, we can be pretty sure that ‘it’ (or is it really ‘it’?) simply works by listening to your voice. According to the product details mentioned in the Amazon website, it says that it has a far-field voice recognition system which was designed to respond to various prompts whenever the wake word was uttered. So this description is quite enough to prove that indeed, Alexa is listening to you all the time.
The main question arises here is, why is Alexa listening to you all the time? She can just listen to you when you need her to play a song or a podcast and then turn the mic off but this is not the case.
This is where it gets a little confusing because in order for its full functionality, like asking her to turn the lights on when you come home, etc., it requires you to always plug Alexa in and keep her on at all times. But all of this still doesn’t explain why Alexa is listening to us.
After some digging on this topic, I came across a news article which states the two of the most possible reasons why Amazon Alexa is doing what it are doing.
So the first reason they mentioned was if Alexa is involved with the FBI or not. In other words, is Alexa spying on us? I am sure the first thought that came into your mind was that how can a smart speaker be a spy?
Here’s where the word ‘smart’ comes in to make us believe that yes, Alexa can be spying on us. But again the question ‘why’ is unanswered here which also in some ways encourages people to come up with their own, why is Alexa spying on us and what could be the goal for the possible involvement with the FBI?
According to the news article that I came across, it says, “Most American households are expected to have an always-on smart speaker in their home by 2020, and we’ve already had cases where information from smart speakers was used to assist in criminal cases.”
So this article was basically trying to convey that smart speakers like Alexa are used by the FBI to keep track of the criminal activity (or is it?) that can probably take place in any household. But this practice comes along with the risk of indulging in the private lives of the people having these smart speakers which will not be acceptable by the common majority.
Could Amazon be using Alexa as a marketing tool to increase their sales?
Now this reason seems more convincing than the previous one, of course, because no government body is involved this time.
We all have conversations with our family and friends when at home and since Alexa is listening to us all the time, she records all our conversation, even the most private ones and then it is stored in the form of data. This data is used to recommend products to the user.
In order to explain this, take an example- if Alexa hears a dog barking in the background, you might get a recommendation for dog food, or if you’re just having a conversation with your family that you need a piece of new furniture, you might get a recommendation for the same. Personal space what?
Alexa is not only used for selling products by listening to your conversations but also is a great marketing strategy to induce the customers to buy other compatible goods. For instance, Alexa works best when you’re an Amazon Prime member or if you purchase the latest smart home accessories.
Even if you watch the ads for Alexa, it showcases other products that are available on the website. It’s like an ad inside an ad, an inception-like scenario, if you will.
So could Alexa just be a product which persuades the owner too but more products? Should Alexa just stick to being a helpful AI assistant or continue to serve her master by marketing products to us like the way Siri might be predicting the unpredictable?