Smart devices, such as the Amazon Echo, may be allowing the government to listen to citizen’s conversations as part of a security database.
According to Amazon.com, the Amazon Echo is a wireless speaker and voice command device. It has the power to play music, place calls or send messages, answer questions and provide information.
Along with those features, the Echo has a built in microphone that is always listening to the user. It responds to the name Alexa and can hear its orders from across the room, even in a noisy environment.
This device has brought out the paranoia of citizens since it was first released in 2015. There is fear regarding the idea that Alexa is always listening in on conversations. They are also wary of where that information is going and who is listening to it.
Citizens became increasingly nervous when a video went viral of an Amazon Echo user asked Alexa if she worked for the CIA, and proceeded to shut down. This went back and forth where the user asked the same question and the Echo repeatedly shut down. According to nymag.com, an Amazon representative responded by calling it a glitch. Shortly afterward, this ‘glitch’ was corrected, and now when asked if Alexa works for the CIA, she responds, “No, I work for Amazon.”
People have always been somewhat cautious and fearful of technology. They still continue to use it, but to prevent people from looking in or listening in, civilians have resorted to putting tape over camera lenses or constantly deleting search histories.
George Orwell warned the public of this very danger in his book 1984. Even though it is a work of fiction, there are uncanny parallels between that dystopian society and America today. For example, Big Brother is always watching. For those who have not read the book, Big Brother is a metaphor for the government. Big Brother was watching the citizens of Oceania through their telescreens.
In the ever-growing technological world, people have ‘telescreens,’ cell phones, televisions and Echos with them everywhere.
After the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001, George W. Bush implemented the President’s Surveillance Program. This was a way to collect secret intelligence as part of the War on Terrorism.
Organizations such as NSA, MAINWAY and PRISM are used to wiretap cell phones, record conversations, internet searches, text messages and emails being sent or received, photos viewed or uploaded and a plethora of anything involving technology in some way.
Americans have refused to put their trust in the government since President Richard Nixon’s Watergate Scandal of the 70s. It came to light that Nixon had bugged his political opponents office and the people who he was suspicious of with tape recording devices.
According to Amazon.com, Alexa is also compatible with other devices, companies such as WeMo, Sony, Samsung SmartThings, Nest and other various businesses, that allow it to control appliances in households like lights, fans, televisions, thermostats, garage doors, sprinklers and locks.
This is eerily similar to the sci-fi Disney movie called Smart House which starred Kevin Kilne and Katey Sagal in 1999. This movie was a prediction of what the future would be like, having an intelligent house to make a smoothie appear or play something on TV. While it seemed cool in the beginning, it quickly took a turn for the worse when the house, named Pat, an acronym for Personal Applied Technology, became self aware and tried to trap the family in.
On the bright side, if robots do try to take over, it would be easy to put an end to their revolution with just a cup of water.