That smart speaker is getting even smarter about what's happening in your home. Amazon is announcing new features for its Echo device that will allow the 'Alexa' feature to pick up on non-verbal commands like dogs barking, babies crying, or snoring. The new features can also turn on or off lights in your home without a command, or even allow Alexa to have a conversation with people.
This is just the latest step in the smart technology revolution that continues to explode, while raising more and more privacy issues. Alan Butler, interim executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), says this new technology goes far beyond the type of surveillance we've gotten used to. "The obvious data collection and ad-based tracking responses are only the tip of the iceberg," he tells KTRH. "Even people who think they know what's happening in terms of how the data is being collected and used, don't actually understand the half of what's happening 'under the hood' so to speak."
While companies like Amazon and Google routinely provide disclaimers allowing people to opt out of certain data collection or control how much info is shared (Amazon says things like babies crying won't be sent to the cloud), all of the privacy protocols are self-policed by the companies. "We need federal-based, comprehensive privacy legislation in the United States," argues Butler. "We can no longer operate without rules of the road for these types of services."
"We need actual rules that tell the Amazons and Googles of the world what they can, and particularly what they cannot do with the information they're collecting," he says.