July 10, 2019

Cost of Smart Speakers Too High

We have a friend that told us that she just set up a smart speaker in her home. 

We told her what we knew about these devices (little of it good), and told her to do some research. The next time we talked to her, she said her smart speaker was back in its box, and stashed under the deck in the back yard. 

Chalk up a victory for freedom and privacy.

Having a "hands-free and easy-to-use interface to interact with computers and accomplish tasks that previously required a display and input devices such as a mouse and keyboard" would be nice for us to have. 

Since Linda does not have the use of her hands for fine motor tasks, such a hands-free device would be appropriate. But at what cost?

These marketing listening devices are called "smart speakers", but does that mean smart for the mega-corps that benefit from mining our data, or smart for the users?

Speaking of users, I'm not sure why people that are fortunate enough to have the use their hands and legs need these, but that is another post. Or rant, I should say. 

I have always been wary of Big Brother listening in on our computer's built-in microphone, and have taken steps to minimize that risk. We also cover our computer's camera. 

“If Amazon and Google and Apple start giving up our personal data to whomever, to government agencies, to private industries, then people will stop buying their products the second they find out.”

- Matthew Rathbun

You aren't paranoid if someone is really after you, and someone really is after you. The state is after your freedom, and the marketers want your money.

These things are like baby monitors, except in this horror story, the state and corporations are the mommy and daddy. And we are becoming the defenceless babies.

These products are always listening. Voice recognition can record and share what you think are private conversations, in some cases. 

Smart tech can also learn. And what it is learning is how to sell you more stuff more efficiently and profitably. Or learning what you do in the privacy of your own home.

One large creepy tech company has already admitted to eavesdropping on their speaker users. Another warns customers that their smart TVs are listening, and you might want to watch what you say while you view them. 

Having noisy consensual sex? Be careful. That smart tech might end up sending the cops to your door thinking that someone is being hurt.

The simplest solution to a problem tends to be the right one, as Ocam's Razor suggests. But I wonder what exactly the problem is that is being solved by these devices? 

Allow me to extrapolate on Ocam and suggest that the simplest lifestyles tend to be the right ones. We should be wary of complicated high tech "solutions", especially the ones that claim to solve manufactured problems. 

As long as I have my mobility I will help Linda myself. I am a "smart caregiver", and I will tend to her needs in the old fashioned way, and with our privacy intact. A smart speaker will not be required, even if it would be convenient and useful. 

Like the rest of consumerism, while the price may be cheap, the cost, for us, is too high.


  1. Yikes I can't imagine a smart speaker. Don't have one, never will. How about a smart dog?

    1. A smart dog will never breach its owners privacy.

  2. This past christmas, my sister bought us a smart speaker. She knew I was against it, but saying it was for Mom and me both, put me in a predicament. I will admit I did give in and start to use it to set alarms for Mom's medicine that had to be administered every 3 hours. It was in Mom's room and she could make a call hands free if I was out for an appointment or ask it to play public radio. The day that Mom died, I unplugged it and haven't used it since. I too struggle with fine motor skills and it would be nice to have the device turn on a light, play music or any number of it's other functions that challenge me. But for now, I want no part of it.

    And it truly is listening all the time, not just when prompted. On a few occasions we were having a conversation and it picked up on something we said and started spouting off information on something we had mentioned in the conversation. That's just scary!

    1. They definitely can be useful devices. Currently, as you described, there are too many glitches. It is so early in this game that there is a lack of control of corporate interests.

      Just in the news today are things like Google allowing employees to listen in on customers to "improve the technology". Another article describes how the same company leaked 1,000 speaker recordings.

      What is scary is how they are taking advantage of a technology that could potentially help millions of people who actually NEED the assistance that is possible.

  3. Anonymous7/10/2019

    I don't think that many people are aware that a "smart" anything is a dangerous thing, and that smart is an acronym standing for "Self-Monitoring Analysis And Reporting Technology." This constant self-monitoring means lots of EMF emissions, which should be avoided for health and safety. I see they now sell smart shower heads....what?!! Maybe smart forks and spoons are next. ;)
    I'm glad your friend listened to you.

    1. Anonymous7/11/2019

      Erin, I'm glad you mentioned the EMFs which most people never consider. The next thing to be very proactive about is 5G technology - radiation beaming at you from every telegraph pole, and even from space. I hope we can stop it before it's everywhere.


    2. I have not heard of the meaning of the acronym, or even know that SMART was an acronym. Thank you for adding that to the discussion.

      The EMF is another consideration entirely, and one that is being 100% ignored by the industry. How much can our bodies take? We are about to find out, especially with 5G. We're soaking in it.

    3. Anonymous7/15/2019

      Yes, 5G is a major issue for all life on this planet - it is a disaster.

      I normally don't share products, but feel this may be helpful to those here interested in protecting themselves from EMFs (and maybe 5g...not sure just yet). We use a Total Shield and it is a wonderful thing.


      This technology does not block EMFS, it neutralizes them. We have a 2 coil unit for our 1,000 square foot apartment, and it is undoubtedly helping our neighbors, too. I understand this technology is used a lot in Europe. I have been so grateful to have used ours for about three years. It has made a big difference for me and my family. Hope this is helpful.

  4. Anonymous7/10/2019

    These things are terrifying. I too cover the camera on my computer. Recently got a new Kindle, and it came with their "assistant" Alexa. I disabled it right away and am working on how to delete it entirely. These really could be helpful tools, but are not worth having in the present form. - Mary

    1. It is sad that such useful technology is being subverted by the mandate of corporations to pursue profit over all other considerations. These things could really help a lot of people, but like you say, not in the present form.

  5. Anonymous7/11/2019

    My late husband was a tech who started out in medical robotics and ended up in cyber security. He used to say that the idea that we have any privacy anymore is an illusion. Makes me want to pack up, buy a few acres in the Cariboo and become a hermit.

    1. On the 1st page of '1984', Winston, (the hero) is hiding from his TV. That should have told us something. Will we willingly go deeper into this rabbit hole? It seems that many are willing to take the risks.

      Not me.

  6. Anonymous7/12/2019

    I agree, I use a few things that increase privacy which include:

    The Linux operating system - open source with encrypted hard drive.
    Swiss Cows search engine - encrypted and based in Switzerland, non-google. https://swisscows.ch/
    Proton Mail - encrypted and based in Switzerland.
    Ad blocker - uBlock Origin - open source.
    Browser - Firefox
    Maps: Openmap
    Office - Libeoffice with liberation font.The above is google free.


    There's more, but these are some ideas.

    1. That is an excellent list. Privacy is one of the defining issues of our time.

    2. Thanks for that great list Alex . I'm definitely going to check those out.
      Me, I've always been so confused why any able bodied person would want one of these things. How lazy an stupid are we becoming?! Actually, dont answer that :(
      The privacy thing or complete lack thereof also worries me hugely. I keep remembering my nana saying Big Brother is coming...and that was 30 years ago. She must be rolling over in her grave right now. She was right :(

    3. Thanks Alex for the list! I'm going to check some stuff out right now.


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