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Stephen L. Carter

The Future Will Be Recorded, on Your Smart Speaker

We should welcome Amazon’s plans for Alexa to listen to more of what we say. 

They’re listening.

They’re listening.

Photographer: Andrew  Burton/Bloomberg

Amazon’s patent application for an always-on feature for Alexa, its popular voice-activated personal assistant, has raised a lot of concern. “If you’re already freaked out by the privacy implications of smart speakers like Amazon’s Echo,” says Gizmodo, “we have some bad news.” A headline in ScienceAlert is even more direct: “Newly Released Amazon Patent Shows Just How Much Creepier Alexa Can Get.” You get the idea.

But the anxiety is much ado about nothing. An Alexa that’s always listening will likely prove more useful than an Alexa that isn’t; and, in any case, always-on devices are certainly our future.