Internet-enabled smart devices such as Amazon’s Echo and Google’s Cortana have changed the way we live our daily lives. No longer do we need to open our computer to ask a simple question or even to listen to music, but with the newest revelations from WikiLeaks involving the CIA, many Americas are being more cautious.
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In a video that has gone viral since it was uploaded, a woman using her Amazon Echo, a device that is always listening, asks the device if it would lie to her? Alexa, the automated voice system in the device simply replies, “I always try, to tell the truth. I’m not always right, but I would never intentionally lie to you or anyone else.”
The woman then asks “what is the CIA” and, in turn, Alexa states what the CIA is and where it is located. The woman then asks a question to prove her point, “Alexa, are you connected to the CIA?” The smart device refuses to answer, even after being asked a direct question.
The reason for the silence, and for those unfamiliar with the Echo, is that Alexa is programmed to stay silent rather than tell a lie or give misinformation. Once the video started to spread like wildfire throughout the interweb, Amazon updated their device to give an answer.
In a separate video, another woman asks the same question as the first and the device says, “No, I work for Amazon.”
People are trying to make ties between Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos signing a $600 million contract to make its cloud hosting available to the government and a CIA plot to gather intelligence on American citizens.
Owners of other smart at-home devices, like Google’s Cortana, wanted to see if their product would have a similar response. The man in the video asks the same questions as the woman in the first video. When asked if she is connected with the CIA, Cortana shockingly responses, “I’ve got to admit… I’m not sure…”
But these are different times we’re living in. With smart devices in homes worldwide, there is more opportunity for eavesdropping and surveillance- from anyone. Two months ago, Vice News reported that an Arkansas prosecutor was trying to use an Amazon Echo as a witness in a murder trial. So e careful. You really never know who’s listening.