Virtual assistants offer a wide variety of actions to be more productive at work or in the daily life of a home. There are many people who are already entrusting control of home appliances and their agenda and contacts to these intelligent systems. However, they could be listening more than we would like.
The occasions when smart speakers are discovered invading user privacy are recurring. Even companies have come to recognize that their employees listened to the personal recordings collected by the devices, many times by mistake.
Virtual assistants, in theory, should only record when given an order, but these systems are activated many times by mistake. A new study from the Northeast University of France emphasizes those failures in which the device believes we have called it, when it is only a noise from television.
Up to 19 times a day virtual assistants can be connected accidentally
Those responsible for this research used only connected speakers: Google Home Mini, Apple Homepod, a Harman Kardon speaker with Cortana technology, two Amazon Echo Dot second generation and two Amazon Echo Dot third generation.
To check if these devices were connected when they should not they put a television in the background with different television series such as Narcos or The Big Bang Theory for 125 hours. The series that managed to activate the speakers more times were Gilmore Girls and The Office. As the researchers explain, this is because the dialogues of these series are longer.
The speaker that has been activated most times by mistake has been Apple Homepod that confused certain words or expressions such as “He clearly”, “And seriously” with “Hey Siri” . Microsoft’s assistant, Cortana, is the second in the ranking, activated with “Colorado” or “Coming up.” Alexa for its part, wakes up when a word mixes vowels with the letter K and G and the Google Home Mini and the Echo Dot are the least confused.
Of course, the study emphasizes good news, all virtual assistants learn from their mistakes and only reproduce the same error in 8.44% of cases. If they think we are talking to them, the speakers keep listening for six to 43 seconds to fall asleep again.
All these devices have a button that locks their microphones so that we do not worry that they hear us when we are having a personal conversation that includes relevant data such as bank accounts.