Alexa is always listening


In this week’s privacy nightmare, an Oregon couple discovered their Amazon Echo smart speaker recorded their conversation and sent the audio to an acquaintance — without their knowledge.

The claim seemed improbable, until the company confirmed it really happened. Amazon said it was reviewing how its smart speakers work to avoid similar situations.

The explanation? Amazon said the voice-activated speaker misheard parts of the couple’s conversation, prompting it to wake up, start recording, and send the audio files to someone in their contact list.

“As unlikely as this string of events is, we are evaluating options to make this case even less likely,” the company said.

The incident serves as a reminder that the proliferation of internet-connected devices in our lives and homes that are constantly listening to us carry risks that we are just beginning to grapple with.

“I felt invaded,” the woman, identified only by her first name, Danielle, told a local TV station.

“A total privacy invasion. Immediately I said, ‘I’m never plugging that device in again, because I can’t trust it.’” Read more

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GDPR is here
In case you’ve been ignoring your emails (apart from this one), the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation went into force today, representing the biggest change to data protection rules in decades. The FT’s editorial says GDPR is necessary and sensible, if imperfect — the test will be in its enforcement by member states. A privacy campaigner has already filed complaints against Facebook and Google arguing they are breaking the new rules. And a number of US news sites, including the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune, were blocked to European readers after the rules rolled out.

Uber’s safety shortfall
Autonomous driving experts say that the first report into Uber’s fatal crash in Arizona reveals clear shortcomings in the company’s driverless testing programme. This week’s preliminary report by the US National Transportation Safety Board threatens to hold up Uber’s plans to resume testing its self-driving cars later this year.

Formula One goes over the top
The introduction of F1 TV, an internet streaming service, this month is the global sport’s boldest move to date to tap a new digital audience. But traditional broadcasters may feel threatened if the service performs well.

Forwarded

How politics consumed ESPN
The US sports network is cable TV’s most expensive channel — but that status has become a liability in the age of cord-cutting. Its relationship with its majority owner, Walt Disney, has grown tense as the once-reliable profit engine has been torn apart by America’s partisan politics. (Wall Street Journal)

Behind the scenes of Harvey Weinstein’s arrest
The disgraced film mogul was arrested on Friday and charged with three sexual offences, including the rape of a women in 2013. Ronan Farrow interviews the woman whose allegations are at the centre of the case and the investigators who have been working for seven months to bring the charges. (The New Yorker)

Tech tools you can use – YouTube Music

After years of false starts, YouTube is now serious about music streaming, says The Verge.

Google’s overhauled music offering is “made to intrigue you with a set of easy-to-use discovery and search features no other streaming service can top and keep you listening (and watching) with the same library full of live performances, covers from unsigned artists, and random songs you already use to procrastinate at work all day (that aren’t available on Spotify or Apple Music).” Read more

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