Siri and Alexa are spying on us

I have read about legal cases that wanted to use the information that either Siri or Alexa heard in a court of law.  What??

Here is what we discovered this past week.  Alexa is plugged in, willing and waiting for some direction but it became apparent that she was taking some direction for us too.

We all drank a round of Aperol spritzes one night.  The next day one of us, who have never had Aperol before, was getting pushed Aperol ads at them.  The same person who never even heard of Kiels but mentioned it a few times because it happens to be on of the soaps in the outdoor shower was getting Kiels ads pushed too.

Someone in the weekend crew is a big soccer fan so we had the soccer games on over the weekend.  One person, who has never watched soccer in their entire life, three hours after watching with the crew was pushed at with soccer info.

I don’t mind when I am looking at something on line and then a few hours later I see an ad being pushed at me for the exact same thing I was looking at.  I actually find it clever and fascinating at the same time.  Having Siri or Alexa overhearing everything in the privacy of my home and somehow knowing who else is around with their phones and then using that data to push information at me and them is something that I am absolutely not comfortable with.  Those big ears might make life easier and perhaps a bit entertaining but 24/7 input is not ok.

I am unplugging all of these devices immediately.

Comments (Archived):

  1. Tracey Jackson

    Scary. No desire for one. Thank you for posting.

  2. Pranay Srinivasan

    Facebook Ads have started using passive Mic functions – wife and I were discussing iPhone trade in and a iPhone trade in ad was pushed at both of us on fb in the next 2-4 hours

    1. Gotham Gal


  3. Lisa Abeyta

    My bet is that it was someone’s Facebook app. The permissions specifically allow mic use even when the app is not open. I’m pretty sure it uses passive listening to pick up key words for marketing. We have started developing civic integrations on our platform for AI chatbots – bus schedules, etc – and have not yet seen these same invasive uses. But it is why there needs to be more oversight. I won’t use the Facebook app; I haven’t yet had the same concerns about AI devices.Here is a good article on it:

    1. Gotham Gal

      Interesting. For what it is worth, our kids who are early 20’s, stop engaging with FB yet like Instagram more than Snap these days.

      1. Lisa Abeyta

        Yes, mine as well. The younger generations are using Snapchat and Instagram. I see some incredible uses for AI chatbots for cities, because the use of Natural Language removes barriers for literacy, language, vision and movement – so it means that a broader scope of citizens can access government services through digital. But I am also aware that as is the case in most emerging markets and technologies, regulation will come slower than innovation, so it will be important that the technology being funded is coming from teams who are ethical and who have privacy as a paramount value.

      2. ahoova

        and FB owns Insta …

  4. Pointsandfigures

    Love the convenience, hate the 1984 Big Brotherish stuff

  5. Scott Reyes

    Did it mention Google Assistant or are the cases Siri and Alexa specific?

    1. Gotham Gal


  6. JLM

    .Want to have some fun? Look into what the Dumbo project is?The significance is this — it was developed along the same lines as you are suggesting, but it is way, way, way more dangerous.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  7. John Philpin

    Surely ‘listening to you’ is essential for a voice interface … it’s the question of what the service provider does with the inputs beyond your original intent – which is to ‘get something specific back’. Alexa/Amazon makes it’s money from selling stuff to you. So does Google. So does Facebook. Apple does not. The power of Apple is that they make their money from the devices, computers, accessories and services that they sell to people and corporations …. they have no need to use our data to make a profit. I have read a lot about Alexa abusing it’s position in the home … and your use case resonates. Do you have a similar example of Siri – eg “Siri find me the nearest Starbucks – and then being inundated with advertising for coffee stores in your locale?

    1. Gotham Gal

      We have been with Alexa all summer. At home we have both.Agree with you on Apple but I am sure that data will be used for something at one point.