More and more of our devices have cameras that watch you and microphones that listen to you – and in many cases, all the time. This data almost never stays in your house nor in your device, it gets sent across the internet where it is collected, saved, monitored, and used to improve the product’s AI and pattern matching. Under many of those license agreements we blindly click through, those recordings can be kept and used for a wide variety of purposes.
This has led to disturbing problems like voice records from our devices being subpeonaed and used in criminal trials. Recordings from Alexa devices are regularly listened too by Amazon workers. It doesn’t stop there: outside vendors are often allowed access to your Google data (which can include recordings/messaging/email data). Facebook uses humans to read and train data from the Messenger app. Voice messaging services can use overseas human labor to listen to and transcribe messages. There are whole 3rd party services such as Scale that sell human labor that is allowed access to the primary company’s collected data to identify video, photo, audio, and any recorded data from their services into machine training data.
It sounds futuristic and perhaps more than a little invasive—computers watching your every move, devices listening to everything you say. There are already privacy and consumer protection groups raising these issues, and growing lack of trust of companies to use the data in the safest way. To combat that increasing lack of trust, Google’s Advanced Technology and Products division (ATAP) is exploring technologies that don’t have to rely on a camera to see where you are and what you’re doing. Instead, they can use radar and radar-like mechanisms that don’t need direct image data. ATAP spent the past year exploring cool new radar-based methods to understand our intentions and then react to us appropriately.
I for one welcome advancements that keep the privacy of our homes private.