Our devices are listening to us all the time — but do we care?

by Donna Tam and Nick Statt,  CNET

Go to the website for Amazon’s newest product, a virtual assistant, and you’ll read about many features: built-in speakers, seven microphones for capturing your voice, and a brain in the cloud that will get smarter over time as it listens to you.

But one thing is missing: privacy.

The product page for the cylindrical device, called Echo, doesn’t say how it protects your information as you ask it questions and tell it commands. What you learn instead is how it’s always listening intently so it can update your grocery, tell you about the weather or just play a song.

“Amazon Echo. A bit sci-fi, a bit creepy, but I’d totally use one in my classroom,” said Marty Elkins, a teacher and self-described tech enthusiast from Ontario, Canada.

Elkins, who teaches sixth and seventh grade, sees a future where his students can use a device like Echo to look up facts with ease, just as you would use a dictionary to look up a word, or use Google to search for a historic fact. Echo would save “wasted time,” he said, adding he already uses Apple’s Siri assistant in the classroom for the same reason.

Of course, this convenience means Amazon will receive information on him, know what he and his students were curious about and, possibly, find a way to use that information to better sell him things. But like many other consumers, Elkins says it’s a price he’s willing to pay.  Read the entire story.



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