Can We Trust Digital Assistants?

Can We Trust Digital Assistants?

Naveen Joshi 21/11/2018 6

No doubt, digital assistants add comfort to our lives. But, incidents around privacy breaches force us to rethink whether our decision of trusting a digital assistant is right or wrong.

Nearly half the American population has fallen in love with digital assistants. It is cool, and at the same time fun, to speak to our smartphones or computers. This fantastic invention has the potential to send text messages, book appointments, call a friend, head to-do lists, on our behalf. Hence, we see a large number of Americans using and enjoying the benefits of digital assistants altogether. But, this incredible application of AI has created significant privacy and security risks, too. As digital assistants hold our sensitive data, there are risks associated with our data getting misused. Apart from this issue, several other concerns leave us with a question: Is trusting a digital assistant hazardous?

Is Trusting a Digital Assistant Risky?


While the integrated microphone is always on, manufacturers say that digital assistants do not trigger until we mention the required activation keyword. For example, the activation keyword for Google is “Ok Google.” But, as theese digital assistants are actively listening to us, there are chances that these assistants mishear the keyword and take unnecessary steps. Besides, digital assistants cannot a 100% correctly identify the voice of its owner.

Hence, anyone can trigger the assistant with its activation keyword. In this way, illegal users can trigger our digital assistant to get sensitive information about us. Another way hackers can get information about us is through audio. For example, audio sources, such as radio, TV, or recordings, can activate the digital assistant easily. Hackers who already know that the assistant is in proximity can use these sources to order any product or make unwanted changes to the set event. There already have been real incidents around this. 

Alexa misheard its name and ordered dollhouses for a girl. In another incident, Alexa accidently recorded a family conversation and sent it to a friend. In other news, IBM banned SIRI, because the company fears that the digital assistant will listen to all sensitive data, creating privacy risks. Truly, trusting a digital assistant is going to take a whole lot of cajoling.

How Can We Protect Ourselves?

  • By now we know that digital assistants can cause serious privacy issues, but by following the below-mentioned steps, we can secure ourselves to some extent. Always be aware of the accounts you link to the digital assistants. If you are running a business, then you should avoid linking the business account, much like IBM.

  • Ensure that the password for your account is strong and that it enables a two-way authentication for high security.

  • Switch off the device when not in use, so that burglars do not attempt to command your digital assistant.

  • Do not say your personal and sensitive information out loud.

No doubt, technologies provide countless benefits, providing comfort and convenience to our lives. But it is important that we consider the security issues and follow the steps mentioned above to protect ourselves.

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  • Ruth Doye

    I hate Alexa, used her countless times but I fear the day that she might betray me.

  • Christian Paciorek

    No we should not trust them, virtual assistants spy on us !!!

  • Tim Boulton

    Hackers will use them to threaten us.....

  • Andrew Farrell

    Virtual assistants are secure at the moment. They are not widely adopted yet. Wait until the day they will become mainstream and people will start complaining.

  • Lucie Cook

    Unbiased perspective, thanks for debunking the pros and cons.

  • James Mounsey

    Interesting piece !!!

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Naveen Joshi

Tech Expert

Naveen is the Founder and CEO of Allerin, a software solutions provider that delivers innovative and agile solutions that enable to automate, inspire and impress. He is a seasoned professional with more than 20 years of experience, with extensive experience in customizing open source products for cost optimizations of large scale IT deployment. He is currently working on Internet of Things solutions with Big Data Analytics. Naveen completed his programming qualifications in various Indian institutes.

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