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A study of security and privacy issues associated with the Amazon Echo

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... The Echo is a smart speaker with an integrated IVA that provides a variety of services activated though voice commands. The main purpose behind the 'Echo' is to assist users in making purchases, setting reminders, asking for the weather, playing music and many other functionalities that are expanding exponentially (Jackson and Orebaugh 2018). In fact, the idea behind its design was to create a hub within users' homes that integrates and controls other elements inside the home with a simple voice command (Euromonitor 2017). ...
... In fact, the idea behind its design was to create a hub within users' homes that integrates and controls other elements inside the home with a simple voice command (Euromonitor 2017). Through the help of Alexa, Amazon has created a smart ecosystem able to analyze consumers' behaviors and patterns, cater responses based on previous interactions, and become smarter with repeated use (Jackson and Orebaugh 2018). ...
... The Amazon Echo has several features that permit users to personify the device. To operate an Echo, the users need to interact with Alexa by initiating a command activated by the wake word "Alexa" (Jackson and Orebaugh 2018). This interaction categorizes the device as a socially interactive device (Fong et al. 2003). ...
Chapter
Interactive Voice Assistants (IVAs), such as Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant, are increasingly being integrated into consumers’ daily lives. Indeed, IVAs are unfolding new opportunities for retailers to capitalize on Internet of Things (IoT) technologies and generate incremental value. This is affecting the consumer purchasing cycle through the advent of what this study coins as the Voice Moment of Truth (VMOT). This paper introduces a conceptual framework discussing this new moment of truth, which is expected to alter shoppers’ behavior, as well as brands’ and retailers’ strategies. The VMOT is presented to be segmented into five key components: activation, conversation, perception formation, duration, and relationship formation. In addition, the introduction of the VMOT sets forth a new relation between shoppers, brands and online retailers that is crucial for its success.
... In regards to the data circulation around the home premise due to the smart home device ecosystem. Another threat to users is the smart assistant device data security, whereby a study had shown that the Amazon Alexa [3] can constantly hear users' voices in standby mode and the data stored are anonymously in their online database. This produces a concern for users as these smart devices are built to make their lives easier, but in return the home privacy is being compromised by a single microphone contained on the smart assistant device. ...
... 76). Ironically, security and privacy issues are two of the most commonly reported worries about the same devices (Zeng et al., 2017), and the fact that privacy issues do exist (Jackson & Orebaugh, 2018;Wang et al., 2018) and that users do not fully understand them (Lau et al., 2018) have both been well documented. Although they can be helpful, Benlian et al. (2020) state that, "SHA's [Smart Home Assistants] are met with consumer skepticism regarding the amount of information that is collected and processed by their voice user interfaces" (p. ...
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Interest in and ownership of smart home voice assistants like Amazon Alexa and Google Home devices have exponentially increased in recent years. Many people may purchase or be gifted such devices without knowing their potential for connecting with other home technology, listening to private conversations, sharing information with companies, and creating problems due to misunderstanding vocal commands or technological capabilities. Concerns and worries about these devices may be exacerbated over time or by a specific incident. To understand reactions to such situations, we conducted semi-structured in-depth interviews with 10 people who reported different types of worrying incidents with a range of smart home devices and their reactions to reduce that worry. Conducting a thematic coding analysis, we detail how each case study shows a person’s worries about their smart home technology developed vis-à-vis the incident or over time, and their strategies to alleviate their worry. The two dominant reactions were restricted acceptance or discontinuance of the smart home technology, while three other interviews revealed nuanced reactions on the acceptance-rejection continuum. For each interviewee, we highlight their technology use, any major incidents, and their psychological processes leading up to their actions to reduce worry. This provides an in-depth look at worry around smart home technology products themselves, not their ability to perform, and how discontinuance, restricted acceptance, and other reactions reduce those worries.
... From these examples it becomes clear that there are severe risks from (mis)use of BD by private companies, state actors, and criminals. Those features that render BD valuable for many parties at the same time poses such a threat to the privacy and everyday lives of citizens around the globe (e.g., Jackson and Orebaugh 2018). Hence, assessing such risks and preserving privacy for individuals are major issues in the ethics of BD, although not the only issues. ...
Article
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While big data (BD) has been around for a while now, the social sciences have been comparatively cautious in its adoption for research purposes. This article briefly discusses the scope and variety of BD, and its research potential and ethical implications for the social sciences and sociology, which derive from these characteristics. For example, BD allows for the analysis of actual (online) behavior and the analysis of networks on a grand scale. The sheer volume and variety of data allow for the detection of rare patterns and behaviors that would otherwise go unnoticed. However, there are also a range of ethical issues of BD that need consideration. These entail, amongst others, the imperative for documentation and dissemination of methods, data, and results, the problems of anonymization and re-identification, and the questions surrounding the ability of stakeholders in big data research and institutionalized bodies to handle ethical issues. There are also grave risks involved in the (mis)use of BD, as it holds great value for companies, criminals, and state actors alike. The article concludes that BD holds great potential for the social sciences, but that there are still a range of practical and ethical issues that need addressing.
... Privacy violations that happens at the SmH UI layer can be divided in to two major segments: (1) privacy violations that could happen outside the SmH due to information leakages to third party entities [1] [2] [3] [4] and (2) privacy violations that happen between SmH users [5] [6]. This research is focused on the latter type of privacy risk which is referred to as Interpersonal Cyber Physical Privacy. ...
... Unsurprisingly, IVAs such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home have come under scrutiny for their security and privacy practices. In [19]," Jackson et al. argue that security and privacy concern for the Amazon Echo revolve around mutual trust rooted in accuracy, fairness, and privacy. ...
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As the concept of the Smart Home is being embraced globally, IoT devices such as the Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Nest Thermostat are becoming a part of more and more households. In the data-driven world we live in today, internet service providers (ISPs) and companies are collecting large amounts of data and using it to learn about their customers. As a result, it is becoming increasingly important to understand what information ISPs are capable of collecting. IoT devices in particular exhibit distinct behavior patterns and specific functionality which make them especially likely to reveal sensitive information. Collection of this data provides valuable information and can have some serious privacy implications. In this work I present an approach to fingerprinting IoT devices behind private networks while only examining last-mile internet traffic . Not only does this attack only rely on traffic that would be available to an ISP, it does not require changes to existing infrastructure. Further, it does not rely on packet contents, and therefore works despite encryption. Using a database of 64 million packets logged over 15 weeks I was able to train machine learning models to classify the Amazon Echo Dot, Amazon Echo Show, Eufy Genie, and Google Home consistently. This approach combines unsupervised and supervised learning and achieves a precision of 99.95\%, equating to one false positive per 2,000 predictions. Finally, I discuss the implication of identifying devices within a home.
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Since its launch in 2014, Amazon Echo family of devices has seen a considerable increase in adaptation in consumer homes and offices. With a market worth millions of dollars, Echo is used for diverse tasks such as accessing online information, making phone calls, purchasing items, and controlling the smart home. Echo offers user-friendly voice interaction to automate everyday tasks making it a massive success. Though many people view Amazon Echo as a helpful assistant at home or office, few know its underlying security and privacy implications. In this paper, we present the findings of our research on Amazon Echo’s security and privacy concerns. The findings are divided into different categories by vulnerability or attacks. The proposed mitigation(s) to the vulnerabilities are also presented in the paper. We conclude that though numerous privacy concerns and security vulnerabilities associated with the device are mitigated, many vulnerabilities still need to be addressed.
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Despite the opportunities afforded by the growing use of drones, their civilian use causes concern as they can capture, share and store images of events and people following a set of norms still in development. The main challenges risen by drone usage relates mainly to existing gaps in regulation and the difficulty to enforce approved guidelines. Further changes and implementation of drone legislation will broadly affect current applications and future opportunities shaping the way civilians will be allowed to use drones. This article explores these issues qualitatively, analysing (i) civilian users’ and developers’ views on drone usage, (ii) their knowledge of relevant regulations and (iii) how they imagine its use should be regulated. In its conclusion, this article discusses the general concern of potential privacy infringements and the importance to take into account civilians’ thoughts in further implementation of drone law in order to protect recreational practices.
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From innovations such as virtual fit through 3D body scanning, smart clothes, wearable technology and virtual styling assistants to more mundane capabilities such as digital photography and social media, deciding what to wear and how to wear an item is now accompanied by a range of new information and perspectives. This article examines the sociotechnical systems that support everyday decisions about what to wear, and how this decision-making process is being re-imagined in response to technology. Drawing upon closet ethnographies with women in the USA and Australia, we focus upon the ways in which women make decisions about what will help them to ‘look professional’. Specifically, we attend to two key dimensions of the decision-making process – visions and validations – to understand the ways in which women weigh the opinion of other people, media and technologies, and the real and imagined role of how new technologies such as the Amazon Echo Look may be integrated into this process. Through fine-grained analysis of the ways that women receive, reject or ignore information about their performance of looking professional, we reflect upon the relative importance of different technologies in the process of decision-making.
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Die Nutzung von digitalen Sprachassistenten wie Amazon Alexa oder Google Assistant nimmt in privaten Haushalten stark zu. Ihre Popularität verdanken sie der Art der Interaktion zwischen Menschen und Maschine, die deutlich natürlicher ist als bei einer Website oder App. Dank ihrer großen Verbreitung und der einfachen Erweiterbarkeit, liegt es nahe, Sprachassistenten als zusätzlichen Kanal für den Kundenservice in kommunalen Unternehmen einzusetzen. Dabei sind eine Reihe von technischen Herausforderungen wie Authentifizierung des Nutzers, Integration mit Backend-Systemen sowie datenschutzkonforme Verarbeitung zu adressieren. Weiterhin stellt sich die Frage nach der Auswahl der Kundenanliegen, die für die Unterstützung durch Sprachassistenten geeigneten sind. Dieser Beitrag zeigt anhand des Beispiels der Stadtwerke Leipzig, wie die Integration von Sprachassistenten in den Kundenservice technisch und fachlich durchgeführt wurde. Damit soll ein Beitrag zur Entwicklung von Gestaltungswissen zur Einbindung von Sprachassistenten in kommunalen Betrieben und öffentlichen Verwaltungen geleistet werden.
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Are digital assistants sensitive to the values of their users? In this paper, we report the results of ten interviews with users of Apple's Siri, Amazon's Alexa, and Google Assistant about how they use these digital assistants. Our thematic analysis led us to identify three key themes across the ten interview transcripts: functionality of the technology, trust in the manufacturer, and privacy versus convenience. We conclude that the manufacturers of digital assistants need to be sensitive to users' values when designing and deploying these technologies.
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The increasing popularity of specialized Internet-connected devices and appliances, dubbed the Internet-of-Things (IoT), promises both new conveniences and new privacy concerns. Unlike traditional web browsers, many IoT devices have always-on sensors that constantly monitor fine-grained details of users' physical environments and influence the devices' network communications. Passive network observers, such as Internet service providers, could potentially analyze IoT network traffic to infer sensitive details about users. Here, we examine four IoT smart home devices (a Sense sleep monitor, a Nest Cam Indoor security camera, a WeMo switch, and an Amazon Echo) and find that their network traffic rates can reveal potentially sensitive user interactions even when the traffic is encrypted. These results indicate that a technological solution is needed to protect IoT device owner privacy, and that IoT-specific concerns must be considered in the ongoing policy debate around ISP data collection and usage.
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