Consumers Worry About Smart Speakers Listening To Their Conversations

Smart speakers are a hot item for holiday shoppers -- but that doesn’t mean those who will be receiving them as gifts will be thrilled about how they could be used for ad targeting.

Privacy concerns are also part of the smart speaker shopping process, with consumers trusting some brands more than others, according to a new study.

Facebook Portal is the least-trusted home brand overall, with nearly half (49%) naming it as the brand they would trust least to handle personal data, according to the study, comprising a survey of 1,000 U.S. adults conducted by Propeller Insights for Express VPN.

That may not be significant, since only 11% of consumers who intend to purchase a smart home product prefer Facebook Portal, compared to 66% who prefer smart devices from Amazon, 55% by Google and 32% by Apple.

The majority (58%) of consumers either own or plan to purchase a smart speaker or voice assistance device, according to the survey. More than a third (36%) plan to purchase one or more smart speakers such as Amazon Echo or Google Home during the holiday season, 11% already have purchased one or more and 11% already own one and do not plan to purchase another.

The majority (78%) of consumers who receive an Amazon smart speaker as a gift during the holiday season are concerned about Amazon listening to their conversations and using the information to target them with advertising, with 28% of them saying they are very concerned. Even more (82%) have concerns about Google Home devices.

Consumers have different trust levels by brand, with Amazon Alexa leading. Here are the smart home brands consumer trust most with their home security:

  • 29% -- Amazon Alexa
  • 26% -- Google Assistant
  • 15% -- Samsung SmartThings
  • 14% -- Nest
  • 6% -- Facebook Portal

However, it’s not only smart speakers that concern consumers. The majority (71%) of consumers would be concerned about a Samsung Smart TV listening to their conversations to better target advertising.

The Internet of Things has a consumer trust issue.

9 comments about "Consumers Worry About Smart Speakers Listening To Their Conversations".
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  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, December 10, 2018 at 1:25 p.m.

    I guess if you're completely paranoid, even having an iPhone is a high-risk, too. You have to trust Apple to only listen when you say "Hey Siri" or accept the notion that preferences settings are exactly what they promise.  I have a friend who keeps a post-it note tacked onto his office web cam. I asked him if the tally light and pop-up warnings are not sufficient to let him know he's being watched and he just smiled and shook his head 'no' (making me wonder what he's doing). Trust is always an issue with technology.

    I have an Alexa smart speaker at home but it has an "off" button for the microphone. Now that some smoke detectors are Alexa enabled, I wonder who will climb a ladder to stop them from listening. Regardless, the job for the NSA is getting easier with citizens buying devices that listen (or watch).

  2. R MARK REASBECK from www.USAonly.US , December 10, 2018 at 4:16 p.m.

    People you don't trust are usually not invited into your home.  Yet people buy these stupid
    "smart" boxes and expect the "integrity" of the company to whom collect information......
    Is safe.  I'm convinced that people have traded privacy for laziness.

  3. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin replied, December 10, 2018 at 4:23 p.m.

    All good points, Douglas. "Connected" is evolving to an entirely new meaning.

  4. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin replied, December 10, 2018 at 4:27 p.m.

    Yes, Mark, you may note that the percentages of trust are relativley low.

  5. John Grono from GAP Research replied, December 10, 2018 at 5:29 p.m.

    Douglas, I think you will find that all these devices "listen" all the time 24-7.

    The software that does the listening only invokes the response algorithm after you have triggered it with "Hey Siri" and then analyses the phrase that follows the words "Hey Siri", and then creates its "voice" response.

    The question is does it only buffer what it has listened too, does it locally store what it has listened to, does it cloud store what it has listened to?

    Until we know those procedures I remain cautious.

  6. R MARK REASBECK from www.USAonly.US , December 10, 2018 at 6:38 p.m.

    ALL you need to know:

  7. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin replied, December 10, 2018 at 7:06 p.m.

    We covered one of those cases here Mark:

  8. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin replied, December 10, 2018 at 7:07 p.m.

    Right, John; not so much about the listening, but more about the recording and/or storing.

  9. John Grono from GAP Research replied, December 10, 2018 at 7:08 p.m.

    Thanks.   And once the word "might" has been resolved we'll know for sure.

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