(Tea Party 247) – While many American workers have been able to continue their employment from home so as to practice social distancing during the coronavirus outbreak, lawyers are now warning that this could present a whole host of new problems.
Of course, anyone who has been paying attention to the dangerous implications of smart technology will not be very surprised.
The New American reports that employers are concerned that smart speakers such as Google Home and Amazon Echo, which by design always listen in on their users, could now be privy to confidential corporate intelligence.
This is why they are warning their employees shut these devices off while working from home.
On Tuesday, ZDNet published an article titled “Working from home? Switch off Amazon’s Alexa (say lawyers),” in which Chris Matyszczyk wrote:
Some professionals may not be so able to deal with life sans their office perks. Lawyers, for example.
Many are used to sitting in their enclosed chambers, closing their doors and holding vital conversations about lawyerly matters. There, they feel secure.
Working in their homes, they worry who may be spying on them. Alexa, for example, and her band of vastly intelligent speakerpersons.
The report points to a law firm in the UK, Mishcon de Reya, which has requested its employees mute or completely disable their smart speakers for confidential business calls.
Joe Hancock, the managing partner who is head of cybersecurity at the firm, said, “Perhaps we’re being slightly paranoid, but we need to have a lot of trust in these organizations and these devices. We’d rather not take those risks.”
“Paranoid” is far from appropriate. This is common sense. As mentioned, smart devices, by design, listen to every word you speak. At best, so as to heed your every command, at worst, well…you can only imagine.
In 2018, The New American reported:
Last week, a Portland, Oregon, family was having a private conversation in their Echo-equipped home. Among other things, they discussed hardwood flooring. Later, the man received a call from an employee of his who lives in Seattle, more than 170 miles away. The employee told him he had received a message with the audio of the conversation.
As KIRO 7 in Seattle reported, the couple initially did not believe him. The woman — who only went by Danielle in the interview to protect her privacy — said, “At first, my husband was, like, ‘no you didn’t!’ And the (recipient of the message) said ‘You sat there talking about hardwood floors.’ And we said, ‘oh gosh, you really did hear us.’
This family had an Echo in every room of their home, including the bedroom. After this disturbing incident, the wife disconnected every speaker in the house and boxed them up.
But how many more people keep them in their home?
The New American continues:
Flash forward nearly two years and with employees working from home for the foreseeable future, at least one law firm is cognizant of the fact that confidentiality and devices such as the Echo are mutually exclusive. And while the ZDNet article does not mention the Oregon family and their awakening moment, it does state, “There’s the recent research that revealed Alexa and her squad accidentally activate and record conversations up to 19 times a day.”
And while the issue bringing all of this to the forefront this time is the confidentiality between lawyers and their clients, ask yourself, “Is my privacy less important than theirs?” Of course not. Admittedly, it is convenient to have Alexa set your thermostat, search for and play your favorite song, or answer your trivial question about which actress played with which actor in which movie. It may even score high in “cool points”! But that said, having the infernal thing erroneously activate and capture your private conversations should be a bridge too far for anyone who understands the value of privacy. Think back through the day: What have you said or done today that would make you uncomfortable if it had been recorded and played back to someone else later? Perhaps there were things that would not merely make you uncomfortable, but would — in fact — make you want to change your name and move away to a place where no one knows you. Just do yourself a favor and don’t ask Alexa, Google Home, or any other “Smart Speaker” for steps on how to do that.
In fact, follow the advice these lawyers are giving to their employees: Turn it off. Then, go a step further and never turn it back on.