Blog Feed Post

5 Awesome Illegal Uses for Alexa

If you let your imagination run wild in the world of automatic speech recognition (ASR) and natural language understanding (NLU), and you throw in a little fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD), you can come up with several illegal uses for systems such as Alexa Voice Service, Google Home, Siri, and Cortana that will give you pause. As I have previously written, Alexa is the “killer app” for the Internet of Things (IoT). It is not dangerous, at least not in its present form. But just for fun, let’s play pretend in our world of infinite possibilities.

Please note: I’m going to use “Alexa” for the wake word in the following examples. If you own one of Amazon’s Echo devices, you can easily replace “Alexa” with “Echo” or “Amazon.” If you have a Google or Apple device, you can replace it with “OK Google” or “Hey Siri,” the wake words that work with those systems.

BTW, I have my Amazon Echo configured to give Alexa Voice Service (the underlying technology behind Alexa) a female voice with a British accent. I have my Waze app similarly configured. You can apply your own visualizations to my pers0nal world of anthropomorphized disembodied voices. Which is, of course, the point. By anthropomorphizing our machine learning tools, we are less likely to fear them. But let us not be so easily fooled.

1 – Skipping Commercials

“Alexa. Find me a free version of this movie without commercials.”

This is illegal because unless you have paid for a streaming service or have already purchased a copy of the content you are watching, skipping the commercials is crippling to the businesses that produce and distribute content. Everyone hates commercials. (Please don’t start with the “People only hate irrelevant content” silliness. We can argue about this another time.) So providing a quick, easy method to find another way to consume content you should be paying for is going to be awesome for consumers. For businesses that depend on revenue to produce content, not so much.

This idea could be augmented with a legal alternative: “Alexa. Tell my DVR to skip this commercial pod.” Ouch!

2 – Media Info

“Alexa. What actor is playing Captain Kirk?”

“Alexa. What song is that?”

Alexa is always listening. But so far, it transmits only a fraction of a second of pre-audio to the cloud for processing. What if it could use its full 60-second buffer to help identify audio fingerprints or audio watermarks from soundtracks or other audio content? Amazon owns IMDb (Internet Movie Database) and has about a zillion songs and videos in its Prime streaming service library. If it’s listening anyway … well, you get my point.

3 – On Demand Everything

“Alexa. I want to order the sweater Jennifer Aniston is wearing right now.”

“Alexa. Put this song on my playlist.”

“Alexa. Get this song (video, movie, TV series) for me for free.”

This has to be a “coming soon” feature. If Alexa is always listening (and it is), it could easily pattern match any audio from a song, video, movie, TV series, audiobook, 45 rpm record (what’s that?) or any other audio source and use it as a front end for a commerce engine. Amazon is one of the biggest retailers in the free world. Like I said, this has to be in the works.

4 – TV Ratings

Unless you’re in the media business, you probably don’t know the archaic methodology used to determine television ratings. I won’t bore you with it here. However, since Alexa is always listening, it could accomplish something truly magical (and illegal without the mother of all user agreements), real TV ratings.

Amazon knows who owns Echo devices. In fact, Amazon knows everything an advertiser needs to know about you, including your full contact information, credit card info, purchase history, streaming history (for those on Prime) and more.

Imagine not only that Alexa identified what content was playing but also that there was simultaneous live conversation (proving there were people in the room while the content was playing). Apply a little machine learning and a bit of media modeling, and Amazon would own the most actionable set of marketing data ever created. Let’s see – Skynet, Empire, First Order … I actually don’t have a good metaphor for this one. Ah, but wait …

5 – Preinstalled Surveillance

“Alexa. Record the next three hours of audio from Echo Dot #2.”

“Alexa. Tell Record-a-Call to record for 20 minutes after the phone rings.”

I am not a conspiracy theorist. Not even close. But this is simply too obvious. Since Alexa is always listening, with a writ from a court of competent jurisdiction, and in full compliance with the Fourth Amendment, bugging your location is just a subpoena away.

Or, for the hacking community, it’s simply open season.

Importantly, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Apple and other organizations that are purveying ASR/NLU systems are going out of their way to prevent all of the above. But in practice, we do live in a world of infinite possibilities. “Alexa. Are you listening?” Of course you are. Intelligence communities, both foreign and domestic (including state and local law enforcement), are you listening? We’ll know soon enough.

Author’s Note: This is not a sponsored post. I am the author of this article and it expresses my own opinions. Also, I am the proud owner of several Amazon Echos, Echo Dots, Google Home units, Android devices that are “OK Google” enabled and a significant number of Siri-enabled Apple devices. The purpose of this article is to inspire a civil discussion about the possible future of ASR and NLU systems, not to cast aspersions or in any way suggest that we should limit, slow down or inhibit the remarkable progress being made in this field.

The post 5 Awesome Illegal Uses for Alexa originally appeared here on Shelly Palmer

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Shelly Palmer

Shelly Palmer is the host of Fox Television’s "Shelly Palmer Digital Living" television show about living and working in a digital world. He is Fox 5′s (WNYW-TV New York) Tech Expert and the host of United Stations Radio Network’s, MediaBytes, a daily syndicated radio report that features insightful commentary and a unique insiders take on the biggest stories in technology, media, and entertainment.

Latest Stories
SYS-CON Events announced today that CrowdReviews.com has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 6–8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. CrowdReviews.com is a transparent online platform for determining which products and services are the best based on the opinion of the crowd. The crowd consists of Internet users that have experienced products and services first-hand and have an interest in letting other potential buyers...
DevOps and microservices are permeating software engineering teams broadly, whether these teams are in pure software shops but happen to run a business, such Uber and Airbnb, or in companies that rely heavily on software to run more traditional business, such as financial firms or high-end manufacturers. Microservices and DevOps have created software development and therefore business speed and agility benefits, but they have also created problems; specifically, they have created software securi...
With 10 simultaneous tracks, keynotes, general sessions and targeted breakout classes, Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo are two of the most important technology events of the year. Since its launch over eight years ago, Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo have presented a rock star faculty as well as showcased hundreds of sponsors and exhibitors! In this blog post, I provide 7 tips on how, as part of our world-class faculty, you can deliver one of the most popular sessions at our events. But before reading the...
@DevOpsSummit at Cloud taking place June 6-8, 2017, at Javits Center, New York City, is co-located with the 20th International Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long developm...
While not quite mainstream yet, WebRTC is starting to gain ground with Carriers, Enterprises and Independent Software Vendors (ISV’s) alike. WebRTC makes it easy for developers to add audio and video communications into their applications by using Web browsers as their platform. But like any market, every customer engagement has unique requirements, as well as constraints. And of course, one size does not fit all. In her session at WebRTC Summit, Dr. Natasha Tamaskar, Vice President, Head of C...
Cloud Expo, Inc. has announced today that Aruna Ravichandran, vice president of DevOps Product and Solutions Marketing at CA Technologies, has been named co-conference chair of DevOps at Cloud Expo 2017. The @DevOpsSummit at Cloud Expo New York will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York, and @DevOpsSummit at Cloud Expo Silicon Valley will take place Oct. 31-Nov. 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
In their general session at 16th Cloud Expo, Michael Piccininni, Global Account Manager - Cloud SP at EMC Corporation, and Mike Dietze, Regional Director at Windstream Hosted Solutions, reviewed next generation cloud services, including the Windstream-EMC Tier Storage solutions, and discussed how to increase efficiencies, improve service delivery and enhance corporate cloud solution development. Michael Piccininni is Global Account Manager – Cloud SP at EMC Corporation. He has been engaged in t...
In the enterprise today, connected IoT devices are everywhere – both inside and outside corporate environments. The need to identify, manage, control and secure a quickly growing web of connections and outside devices is making the already challenging task of security even more important, and onerous. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Rich Boyer, CISO and Chief Architect for Security at NTT i3, will discuss new ways of thinking and the approaches needed to address the emerging challenges of securit...
TechTarget storage websites are the best online information resource for news, tips and expert advice for the storage, backup and disaster recovery markets. By creating abundant, high-quality editorial content across more than 140 highly targeted technology-specific websites, TechTarget attracts and nurtures communities of technology buyers researching their companies' information technology needs. By understanding these buyers' content consumption behaviors, TechTarget creates the purchase inte...
Almost two-thirds of companies either have or soon will have IoT as the backbone of their business. Though, IoT is far more complex than most firms expected with a majority of IoT projects having failed. How can you not get trapped in the pitfalls? In his session at @ThingsExpo, Tony Shan, Chief IoTologist at Wipro, will introduce a holistic method of IoTification, which is the process of IoTifying the existing technology portfolios and business models to adopt and leverage IoT. He will delve in...
"We host and fully manage cloud data services, whether we store, the data, move the data, or run analytics on the data," stated Kamal Shannak, Senior Development Manager, Cloud Data Services, IBM, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
As cloud adoption continues to transform business, today's global enterprises are challenged with managing a growing amount of information living outside of the data center. The rapid adoption of IoT and increasingly mobile workforce are exacerbating the problem. Ensuring secure data sharing and efficient backup poses capacity and bandwidth considerations as well as policy and regulatory compliance issues.
Many private cloud projects were built to deliver self-service access to development and test resources. While those clouds delivered faster access to resources, they lacked visibility, control and security needed for production deployments. In their session at 18th Cloud Expo, Steve Anderson, Product Manager at BMC Software, and Rick Lefort, Principal Technical Marketing Consultant at BMC Software, discussed how a cloud designed for production operations not only helps accelerate developer inno...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Conference Guru has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 6–8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. A valuable conference experience generates new contacts, sales leads, potential strategic partners and potential investors; helps gather competitive intelligence and even provides inspiration for new products and services. Conference Guru works with conference organizers to pass great dea...
SYS-CON Events announced today that LeaseWeb USA, a cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) provider, will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. LeaseWeb is one of the world's largest hosting brands. The company helps customers define, develop and deploy IT infrastructure tailored to their exact business needs, by combining various kinds cloud solutions.