Charlie Buttrey

March 23, 2020

As the legal community hunkers down along with everyone else in response to the coronavirus pandemic, a lot of attorneys are working out of their homes. And if they have Alexa or some other voice-activated device, that may be a recipe for trouble.

According to this article at Bloomberg.com, “Smart speakers, already notorious for activating in error, making unintended purchases or sending snippets of audio to Amazon or Google, have become a new source of risk for businesses.” While tech giants Amazon and Google say their devices are designed to record and store audio only after they detect a word to wake them up, “recent testing by Northeastern University and Imperial College London found that the devices can activate inadvertently between 1.5 and 19 times a day.”

The problem, the article tells us, is that these very companies have teams of human auditors listening in on conversations without consent to improve their AI algorithms.

The good news is that I am not yet working from home (mine is a small office which is closed to the public, and we are maintaining extreme social distancing), and I don’t have any sort of voice-activated device at home in any event. But if you are chatting with your attorney, you may wish to ask him or her to turn Alexa off first.

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