It’s only been a few years since Amazon unveiled the Alexa-powered Echo, but since then, smart speakers have become a major consumer-electronics category. Key to its success is the notion of the always-on virtual assistant, which other companies like Apple and Google have adopted as well. In fact, not only has Google made Assistant the driving force behind its Android smartphones, it has launched its own line of Echo rivals.
But underneath all of this technology is the potential risk to your privacy. In just the past few months, news reports have uncovered a series of alarming revelations that companies like Amazon, Google and even Apple have been listening in on conversations without permission. The data that they collect are also often stored indefinitely unless you explicitly delete it or turn off the recording ability. The companies have since responded that the listening of information only occurs to a small percentage of its customers and that the data are anonymized. While that may be true, it’s disconcerting that none of this is transparent, and that the customer is rarely in complete control of their data.
An easy way to avoid this, of course, is to not partake in this technology at all. But a company based in Lawrence, Kansas, is working on an alternative solution: a virtual assistant aimed at preserving privacy and that’s also open source. It’s called Mycroft, and though you may not have heard of it, the company’s been around since 2015.
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