Consumer Watchdog warns personal digital assistants could spy on you

- Amazon’s Echo and Google Home are two of the biggest sellers this holiday season, but the nonprofit group Consumer Watchdog is warning the public after obtaining documents that reveal the companies’ future plans.

At a press conference in Santa Monica on Wednesday, Consumer Watchdog revealed they had obtained patent applications for the Amazon Echo and Google Home which reveal the companies plan to keep tabs on you and even your kids, all in the interest of selling information about you to advertisers.

“This is a home invasion, it’s not a holiday gift,” said Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog. “I think this is the creepiest type of privacy problems we’ve ever seen from Google or Amazon.

The concerns stem from permit applications that the watchdog group obtained.

They say a patent application for the Amazon Echo reveals the company plans to use trigger words to build a profile on a customer, even when the device is supposed to be in sleep mode. 

Consumer Watchdog says a patent application for Google Home reveals the companies’ vision of having the product tied to other devices in the home, the ability to read the title of a book next to your bed, then advertise to you based off what you’re reading, and even the ability to record children by detecting whispers, and mischief, then reporting back to you.

“I don’t think we need Google spying on our kids,” said John Simpson, the privacy director for Consumer Watchdog. “Basically they want to put together an image of you that is then extremely attractive to advertisers, so they can sell that information.”

Simpson said the more companies know about you, the higher returns they can get when they sell that information to advertisers.

“They really do listen to you all the time, they’re plugged in, unplug it,” he said.

Simpson said Consumer Watchdog will be reporting their findings to the FTC to ensure that the companies are following privacy guidelines.

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