Home Is Alexa a trojan horse?

RichardF

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Oct 27, 2006
566
78
New York City
I got an Amazon Echo Dot 3rd Gen for almost nothing and just set it up this morning.

Every step along the way made me cringe and question whether I should toss it in the trash bin.

- Save your WiFi password to Amazon so it's easier to set-up future devices?

- Set up Alexa with your phone number

- Set up your home street address (Ring doorbell asks for the same and I returned it because of that)

- Linking SONOS, Hue and Lutron accounts is required to use their respective skills with Alexa which gives them all the devices your have set-up for Home Automation, a good idea of the floor plan of your home since presumably each room is named/ linked to the devices you have (living room, bedroom 1-4, kitchen etc), scenes, wake-up/ sleep habit routines etc.

- Voice biometrics

- Usage (pattern, frequency etc.) data, tastes, content sources etc.

- and finally, is the mic on the Echo Dot really off when I mute it?
At least SONOS hardwired the mic to the button and it is literally off with no questions.

Is allowing Alexa into our homes a mistake?
They are pushing super hard this season, all flavors of Amazon devices are on sale and almost free this holiday shopping season = increase installed base?


Hoping for an interesting conversation (yes, I know I don't have use it if I don't like it).
 
Last edited:

keysofanxiety

macrumors G3
Nov 23, 2011
9,537
25,261
Oh no it’s really great. I set up everything with Alexa, including my medical history and route to work every sunrise. It’s seriously helpful.

Granted, one morning I was bundled into a strange black van sporting an “A” logo and woke up in an ice bath with one of my kidneys removed, but I’m sure that’s unrelated. Right?
 
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bbednarz

macrumors 65816
Nov 16, 2017
1,308
3,261
Chicago
They push hard every holiday season with deep discounts. I guess it just really depends on what you are comfortable with. I have a few echo's throughout the house for smart home commands. Overall I am not really worried about it. I think the most they would really do with the data is use it to influence advertisements.
 
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bluespark

macrumors 68000
Jul 11, 2009
1,926
2,082
Chicago
Most of what you describe is necessary or at least beneficial to Alexa's core functionality. Home address? That's because tons of what you ask Alexa about is location-specific (weather, transit directions, traffic, deliveries, etc.). Phone number? Alexa can make calls. Wi-fi password? Not strictly necessary, but helpful if you're setting up Alexa devices in every room. Etc.

None of that is to say giving out this information is necessarily a good idea. The user agreements do indeed allow more sharing of information than most people realize, and the mere existence of a user agreement doesn't mean every company adheres to it. Even if you trust the companies you share information with, Amazon could permissibly share information with a smart home provider (for example) that eventually goes out of business and sells its assets to someone with nefarious goals. Or someone otherwise trustworthy could be hacked. The list goes on.

So we make a decision one way or the other and hope for the best. I've opted to use these devices and not worry about the risks, but nothing says I won't regret that someday.
 
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Absrnd

macrumors 6502a
Apr 15, 2010
584
776
Flatland
That is what is keeping me from home automation,
it works great, and connect all kinds of devices, but the cost is your privacy :(

If I ever do go the way of the Domotica, it will probably be all Apple, and keep Google/Amazon as far away as possible.
Even Apple can't guarantee what is used or not, but at least they care about privacy.

The same can be said about devices that can be controlled by apps from the supplier, they just use you, and you have to create an account for basic things o_O
 
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212rikanmofo

macrumors 68000
Jan 31, 2003
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if you value your privacy stay away products from Google or anything related to them. I will stick to Apple's ecosystem and HomeKit for peace of mind.
 
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nebo1ss

macrumors 68030
Jun 2, 2010
2,772
1,460
I got an Amazon Echo Dot 3rd Gen for almost nothing and just set it up this morning.

Every step along the way made me cringe and question whether I should toss it in the trash bin.

- Save your WiFi password to Amazon so it's easier to set-up future devices?

- Set up Alexa with your phone number

- Set up your home street address (Ring doorbell asks for the same and I returned it because of that)

- Linking SONOS, Hue and Lutron accounts is required to use their respective skills with Alexa which gives them all the devices your have set-up for Home Automation, a good idea of the floor plan of your home since presumably each room is named/ linked to the devices you have (living room, bedroom 1-4, kitchen etc), scenes, wake-up/ sleep habit routines etc.

- Voice biometrics

- Usage (pattern, frequency etc.) data, tastes, content sources etc.

- and finally, is the mic on the Echo Dot really off when I mute it?
At least SONOS hardwired the mic to the button and it is literally off with no questions.

Is allowing Alexa into our homes a mistake?
They are pushing super hard this season, all flavors of Amazon devices are on sale and almost free this holiday shopping season = increase installed base?


Hoping for an interesting conversation (yes, I know I don't have use it if I don't like it).
You are over-reacting. I have a number of echo dots installed. Yes you have to log your device into your wifi network from your phone. Its not the same as giving Amazon your wifi password. You do not need to use a phone number or provide an address. I can assure you i did neither. the only feature you use by not providing your phone number is the ability to make calls. I also did not allow access to my contacts.
 
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Absrnd

macrumors 6502a
Apr 15, 2010
584
776
Flatland
You are over-reacting. I have a number of echo dots installed. Yes you have to log your device into your wifi network from your phone. Its not the same as giving Amazon your wifi password. You do not need to use a phone number or provide an address. I can assure you i did neither. the only feature you use by not providing your phone number is the ability to make calls. I also did not allow access to my contacts.
They will know
- everything you say (to the system), uploaded to the system
- everything you buy, sell, order or inquire about.
- everybody you send messages to, and connecting family and friends, and their online info.
- Your IP adress, and everything associated with it, that is already online.
- Your location and everything associated with it, that is already online.

Don't underestimate the power of the forc.....ehhr Google and Amazon,
they have heaps amount of data of you, and have been collecting for many years, they WILL, connect the dots between your account and other information.

Your telephone number is connected, everything you do on your phone, (unless it is an iPhone) to your online activity, images, your face, your address, your friends faces and addresses, your families images, faces, addresses and online activity......all connected
 
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nebo1ss

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Jun 2, 2010
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1,460
They will know
- everything you say (to the system), uploaded to the system
- everything you buy, sell, order or inquire about.
- everybody you send messages to, and connecting family and friends, and their online info.
- Your IP adress, and everything associated with it, that is already online.
- Your location and everything associated with it, that is already online.

Don't underestimate the power of the forc.....ehhr Google and Amazon,
they have heaps amount of data of you, and have been collecting for many years, they WILL, connect the dots between your account and other information.

Your telephone number is connected, everything you do on your phone, (unless it is an iPhone) to your online activity, images, your face, your address, your friends faces and addresses, your families images, faces, addresses and online activity......all connected
Everything you say to the system no problem with that my request are music selection, what is the time etc. . Don't buy order or sell anything on there. Don't send any message or connect to any family or friends except on iPhone. IP address don't have a problem with that. Location is not an issue for me. Again think many are paranoid.
 
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Uofmtiger

macrumors 68020
Dec 11, 2010
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Memphis
I live with Amazon knowing my business. I use them for most of the stuff I buy, so they already have a huge profile of what I like and dislike. I am in the Amazon Vine program, so having them know I like coffee, photography and tech gadgets has paid dividends with the items I have received for review purposes.

I don't like Google nearly as much and don't really need to have a relationship with them outside of Youtube and not much can be done about that. I have a Google Mini and it lives in my home office where it doesn't typically hear conversations. I was curious about it and it is nice to pair with Chromecast for music, but I haven't really used it much in the last year. (I should mention that they were practically giving them away last year, so being a tech-junkie, I was obligated to buy one.:D)

Sure, I would love for them to all follow Apple's privacy model, but the Echo would lose a lot of its skills if they locked it up the way Apple locks up Siri on the HomePod. Don't get me wrong, I love my HomePod, but it doesn't replace Alexa skills.
 
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ZipZap

macrumors 603
Dec 14, 2007
5,486
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I live with Amazon knowing my business. I use them for most of the stuff I buy, so they already have a huge profile of what I like and dislike. I am in the Amazon Vine program, so having them know I like coffee, photography and tech gadgets has paid dividends with the items I have received for review purposes.

I don't like Google nearly as much and don't really need to have a relationship with them outside of Youtube and not much can be done about that. I have a Google Mini and it lives in my home office where it doesn't typically hear conversations. I was curious about it and it is nice to pair with Chromecast for music, but I haven't really used it much in the last year. (I should mention that they were practically giving them away last year, so being a tech-junkie, I was obligated to buy one.:D)

Sure, I would love for them to all follow Apple's privacy model, but the Echo would lose a lot of its skills if they locked it up the way Apple locks up Siri on the HomePod. Don't get me wrong, I love my HomePod, but it doesn't replace Alexa skills.
I don't like Apple making the decision for me. I should choose how much or how little to share to get the features I want.
 
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Uofmtiger

macrumors 68020
Dec 11, 2010
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Memphis
I don't like Apple making the decision for me. I should choose how much or how little to share to get the features I want.
Technically you have that ability on iOS and Mac. Just use Google and Amazon services. You don't get that ability on the HomePod at this point, but there are alternatives like Sonos or the Google Home products for those that just want Amazon or Google knowing their every move. Like I said, I have Echos and it is a trade off I am living with. I try to make a date to clear my data once a month with them, but who knows how it has been disseminated from the time I use the device until the time I delete the information?

I am not sure you can completely turn off tracking on any of these type of devices while using them, so I don't know that Google/Amazon gives you much choice in the matter.
 
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MistrSynistr

macrumors 65816
May 15, 2014
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Amazon and Google are affiliated with deep state subversive branches of our government who are spying on you for intel, collecting blackmail opportunities and the like. You would be a complete fool to use any of their "tech" in your home. From their phones to any of their other devices.
 
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MacintoshDan

macrumors 6502
Sep 24, 2013
331
131
If I could afford all HomePods I would, but not only do I find that they lack plenty of features compared to the Echos, I am not rich. I have a Insigina Google Assistant alarm clock, 2 Echo Dots, and one HomePod. The only thing that keeps me up at night is the bright screen on the alarm clock......
 
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bluespark

macrumors 68000
Jul 11, 2009
1,926
2,082
Chicago
Everything you say to the system no problem with that my request are music selection, what is the time etc. . Don't buy order or sell anything on there. Don't send any message or connect to any family or friends except on iPhone. IP address don't have a problem with that. Location is not an issue for me. Again think many are paranoid.
Apart from paranoia, it is worth thinking about what is possible. If you're an Amazon Prime member with Alexa, for example, Amazon already has a ton of your personal and financial information. If, like most Alexa owners, you enable Skills, you agree to allow Amazon to share information with the company responsible for the Skill. That company may have a less protective agreement than Amazon does and could share information with, for example, your ISP. If that company in turn sells information to Amazon (which can acquire information without "sharing" it, as it defines sharing in its agreements), then much more information about you would have been aggregated than you intended to share, even assuming no one at all violates their confidentiality/data sharing agreements.

Beyond that, imagine that anyone along that chain (or the millions of variants of that type of pattern that are possible) violates their agreement. Or imagine they are hacked or that data is acquired by a government (yours or any other). Now, couple this with the radical improvements we've seen recently with data filtering, search, and facial recognition. Imagine, for example, that a governmental entity or a company like Google (not necessarily Google itself -- it could be a successor or competitor or whatever) acquires a large amount of your information and can identify you in virtually any picture posted online. See any opportunities for mischief there?
 
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nebo1ss

macrumors 68030
Jun 2, 2010
2,772
1,460
Apart from paranoia, it is worth thinking about what is possible. If you're an Amazon Prime member with Alexa, for example, Amazon already has a ton of your personal and financial information. If, like most Alexa owners, you enable Skills, you agree to allow Amazon to share information with the company responsible for the Skill. That company may have a less protective agreement than Amazon does and could share information with, for example, your ISP. If that company in turn sells information to Amazon (which can acquire information without "sharing" it, as it defines sharing in its agreements), then much more information about you would have been aggregated than you intended to share, even assuming no one at all violates their confidentiality/data sharing agreements.

Beyond that, imagine that anyone along that chain (or the millions of variants of that type of pattern that are possible) violates their agreement. Or imagine they are hacked or that data is acquired by a government (yours or any other). Now, couple this with the radical improvements we've seen recently with data filtering, search, and facial recognition. Imagine, for example, that a governmental entity or a company like Google (not necessarily Google itself -- it could be a successor or competitor or whatever) acquires a large amount of your information and can identify you in virtually any picture posted online. See any opportunities for mischief there?
I always find it interesting that the people who are so concerned about Amazon and Google are happy to use social media systems like Twitter and Facebook. I am on neither system and see no need to be.
 
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Uofmtiger

macrumors 68020
Dec 11, 2010
2,050
772
Memphis
Apart from paranoia, it is worth thinking about what is possible. If you're an Amazon Prime member with Alexa, for example, Amazon already has a ton of your personal and financial information. If, like most Alexa owners, you enable Skills, you agree to allow Amazon to share information with the company responsible for the Skill. That company may have a less protective agreement than Amazon does and could share information with, for example, your ISP. If that company in turn sells information to Amazon (which can acquire information without "sharing" it, as it defines sharing in its agreements), then much more information about you would have been aggregated than you intended to share, even assuming no one at all violates their confidentiality/data sharing agreements.

Beyond that, imagine that anyone along that chain (or the millions of variants of that type of pattern that are possible) violates their agreement. Or imagine they are hacked or that data is acquired by a government (yours or any other). Now, couple this with the radical improvements we've seen recently with data filtering, search, and facial recognition. Imagine, for example, that a governmental entity or a company like Google (not necessarily Google itself -- it could be a successor or competitor or whatever) acquires a large amount of your information and can identify you in virtually any picture posted online. See any opportunities for mischief there?
I don't share financial information with Alexa. It currently simply records after you say the word Alexa. They have a way to see this information on their app or website and you can delete it. There was a lawsuit for murder where they tried to get the recordings from Amazon and they fought it until the defendant said they could release it. We haven't seen where this will go because it hasn't been taken up the legal ladder.

As far as "hacking data", the answer to that is throwing out anything that has a connection to the internet. If it is on the internet, there is a possibility of it getting hacked. This includes phones, computers, streaming boxes, "connected" devices, etc. If you are really paranoid, be aware of drones, vans sitting near your home, etc., as well. There is just so much more that can be done these days to see in your windows and listen inside your home from outside.

In other words, for now, we are fighting a losing battle unless you want to live in a cave.
 
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