did someone muck with the backend here

Re: Sing like a canary, Alexa.

1

I think the key here is all the way at the bottom of the article, referencing a different incident: "Prosecutors said the recordings contained no evidence."

Unless the device was accidentally triggered, or the victim decided to say "Alexa, help!" or something, there isn't going to be anything there from the time period in question. The article doesn't specify, but I would be surprised if the police specifically thought that had happened, instead of just thinking (commonly, but not really correctly) that it's recording all the time.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 11- 7-19 8:23 AM
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I mean, I kinda believe that. Or at least I have fears around it. It's not also listening for key words like "shop" or "vacation" or whatever it can pass on to vendors?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11- 7-19 8:32 AM
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3

Is it any different, privacy law wise, from using as evidence a tape recorder that happened to be running (a la The Conversation, say)? We're not talking about evidence being inadmissable because of illegal police snooping. This is, hypothetically evidence that just happened to be at the scene of the crime.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 11- 7-19 8:33 AM
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Not technically at the scene.


Posted by: Opinionated AWS | Link to this comment | 11- 7-19 8:35 AM
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5

I believe that there are at least contractual issues and possibly legal ones about the location of the drives which hold classified data when cloud providers deal with it. (That is, classified stuff can't be stored outside the US). Which judge decides, the server judge or the speaker judge or the headquarters judge? Probably says in the fine print that the Delaware judge does.

"Alexa, order Cheerios from prime now and also weed" is the new forty.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 11- 7-19 8:51 AM
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5 makes sense. But there is surely no admissibility worry here. The recording wasn't made illegally by police but legally and by a third party. If the victim had been, say, on the phone to a call centre (and her call was being recorded for training purposes) that would be admissible too.

Also : of course this is Florida because the victim kept a spear with a 12 inch blade at the foot of her bed.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 11- 7-19 9:23 AM
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7

What's odd with that? No gun?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11- 7-19 9:25 AM
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7: Who said there wasn't a gun too? Why would you make this defamatory assumption?


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 11- 7-19 9:51 AM
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I'm glad I got tired of my Echo early on and got rid of it. (Well, it's sitting around unplugged. I never got around to selling it.)


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 11- 7-19 10:04 AM
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2: It's a vaguely reasonable fear in the sense that it is a remote-controlled recording device and at least in principle Amazon (or Google, in the case of our Home devices) could do something nefarious to just listen all the time. The same thing, notably, is true about every smartphone (and has a wider cast of possible villians: not just Apple or Google, but also Samsung, LG, Huawei, Motorola in the case of Android, and all kinds of app vendors, depending on the platform security).

It's less reasonable in that there's no evidence of this happening on the smart-speaker/assistant devices. The whole trigger-word mechanism is a technical solution to a practical problem - even if the evil tech overlords wanted to listen to/store everyone's audio, that's just too much data (and in particular too much network traffic). Besides my own possibly-misplaced faith in my employer, there are definitely people watching the network traffic of their devices like a hawk, just waiting to spot the evidence of vast audio siphoning.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 11- 7-19 10:16 AM
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11

I'm not getting any of those devices. It's bad enough when the cash register talks to me at the store.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 11- 7-19 10:31 AM
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It's less reasonable in that there's no evidence of this happening on the smart-speaker/assistant devices

Is that true for third party malicious actors? I'd be pretty surprised if there wasn't a live or zero-day hack, maybe via a dodgy skill.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 11- 7-19 10:42 AM
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Of course, there's also Google forgetting it put a camera in one of them.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 11- 7-19 10:43 AM
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Microphone, rather.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 11- 7-19 10:44 AM
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There have been proof-of-concept hacks with skills, like this one - https://www.wired.com/story/amazon-echo-alexa-skill-spying/ - but they only manage to listen for a little while and you have to explicitly invoke the skill.

I can't say there will never be a zero-day on a smart speaker, but smartphones seem like a vastly more likely vector.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 11- 7-19 10:46 AM
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It's less reasonable in that there's no evidence of this happening on the smart-speaker/assistant devices. The whole trigger-word mechanism is a technical solution to a practical problem - even if the evil tech overlords wanted to listen to/store everyone's audio, that's just too much data (and in particular too much network traffic). Besides my own possibly-misplaced faith in my employer, there are definitely people watching the network traffic of their devices like a hawk, just waiting to spot the evidence of vast audio siphoning.

I had the thought that the new google on-phone transcription capability (which sounds very neat) would potentially make it possible to ship information off-device as text which would use negligible bandwidth. I don't think google would do that, but that would be a bad exploit.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 11- 7-19 10:54 AM
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17

i admit I lust after a pixel 4 just for that offline transcription ability. I can't think of a use for it exactly but it is *so* clever


Posted by: Nw | Link to this comment | 11- 7-19 11:03 AM
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I can't say there will never be a zero-day on a smart speaker, but smartphones seem like a vastly more likely vector.

Actually, IoT (Internet of Things) devices are not only more vulnerable than smartphones but sometimes impossible to fix if there is a zero-day discovered. I don't want to suggest that the Alexa/Siri/etc. stuff, which comes from large corporations that are used to looking at security, is hugely vulnerable, but ... they might well be.


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 11- 7-19 11:29 AM
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Also : of course this is Florida because the victim kept a spear with a 12 inch blade at the foot of her bed.

Hey now, I'm from Florida.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11- 7-19 12:05 PM
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20

I don't think google would do that

You have far more faith than me.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 11- 7-19 12:26 PM
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19: is it for alligators or feral hogs?


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 11- 7-19 12:29 PM
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21: Have you been paying attention at all? Everyone knows you need an AK-47 for feral hogs.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 11- 7-19 12:37 PM
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23

Ob XKCD


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 11- 7-19 12:47 PM
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Actually, IoT (Internet of Things) devices are not only more vulnerable than smartphones but sometimes impossible to fix if there is a zero-day discovered.

Its true. Don't be afraid of Alexa spying on you. Be afraid of your dishwasher spying on you.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 11- 7-19 12:54 PM
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25

Or your "smart" television. Your smart television is definitely spying on you.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 11- 7-19 12:54 PM
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I put my smart television inside the smart dishwasher for my own security.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11- 7-19 1:07 PM
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Your smart television is definitely spying on you.

In the good old days, people weren't scared of their televisions spying on them. They were scared of their televisions because that creepy dead girl from The Ring might come crawling out of the screen.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 11- 7-19 1:11 PM
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28

What? It's like you've never seen Poltergeist.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11- 7-19 1:14 PM
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29

People can be so ungrateful.


Posted by: Opinionated George Orwell | Link to this comment | 11- 7-19 1:20 PM
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28: But since stations don't go off the air overnight anymore, televisions no longer just fill the screen with that black and white "snow" that was showing when the little girl made first contact with the poltergeist.

So the world was made safe from poltergeists by cable TV.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 11- 7-19 1:21 PM
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i admit I lust after a pixel 4 just for that offline transcription ability. I can't think of a use for it exactly but it is *so* clever

Supposedly it's going to come to Pixel 3s, and maybe Pixel 2s. Thought they haven't explicitly said it will be offline on those. I hope so, as I was about ready to buy a Pixel 4 just for that feature (it's a godsend for journos) until it became clear how shitty the battery life is.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 11- 7-19 1:41 PM
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The real smart-speaker problem is, you go to a friend's house for a social gathering, and everything is pleasant, and then suddenly someone screams like a banshee, "ALEXA PLAY BILLIE HOLIDAY" or whatever, and then the music-shouter, having ruined all the ongoing conversations, beams proudly at his or her ability to summon music by shouting disruptively across the room. That shit sucks.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 11- 7-19 1:50 PM
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I have a pixel 2, still working fine. I don't really expect it will be powerful enough for live offline transcription. Get a 3 maybe?

Assuming the Google live transcription is as good as the recognition on the voice keyboard, and it must be the same technology, you would have to check the results quite carefully. Suppose it "transcribes" something libellous. Who gets sued and by whom?


Posted by: NW | Link to this comment | 11- 7-19 2:15 PM
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OT bleg:

I have to meet someone for Sunday brunch in London. Where's good, north of the river, quiet and not too horribly expensive?


Posted by: NW | Link to this comment | 11- 7-19 2:16 PM
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Back on topic: much more important, surely, is the court case in which the US government got itself access to a DNA ancestry-testing database. Bingo - everyone who ever took a test is now potentially on file with law enforcement.


Posted by: NW | Link to this comment | 11- 7-19 2:20 PM
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36

Voice recognition makes life much worse for anyone with an accent. Like my parents who are neither of them tech wizzes.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 11- 7-19 2:25 PM
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37

Can your voice activated spyware (Alexa etc.) record you if you don't Perform the Summoning? I've never actually spoken to any of these applications (nor will I) but neither have I deleted them from my devices.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 11- 7-19 2:27 PM
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I have to meet someone for Sunday brunch in London. Where's good, north of the river, quiet and not too horribly expensive?

How far north (and east/west for that matter)


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 11- 7-19 2:49 PM
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Also, boozy brunch or just food brunch?


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 11- 7-19 2:50 PM
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Mostly food; I'm an old man now and can't get to the second bottle (ah, the days when the Archbishop of Canterbury had a press woman who could finish the first bottle before the food arrived); not far north or indeed west of Kings Cross, since my date is starting from the Tower somewhere.

Chris Y - in theory they can't record you without the summoning spell, but they must of course be listening for it all the time.


Posted by: NW | Link to this comment | 11- 7-19 3:02 PM
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41

Hey I have a bleg: I'd like to buy a movie as a gag gift for a friend. Planned recipient does not have any sort of disc player. I think she mostly watches movies through online streaming services. How does one gift a movie these days?


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 11- 7-19 3:03 PM
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iTunes/Amazon gift card?

Also I don't know for sure, but I think in the US physical discs from the big studios come with a code you can redeem on most VOD services. Google Movies Anywhere.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 11- 7-19 3:16 PM
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When you stare into the VOD, the VOD stares back.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11- 7-19 3:27 PM
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But much less aggressively than an optical disc drive, which stares into your retinas, with a laser.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 11- 7-19 3:36 PM
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Can your voice activated spyware (Alexa etc.) record you if you don't Perform the Summoning?

Alexa responds to other similar words, including "Flexo".


Posted by: Todd | Link to this comment | 11- 7-19 3:49 PM
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Can your voice activated spyware (Alexa etc.) record you if you don't Perform the Summoning?

Alexa responds to other similar words, including "Flexo".


Posted by: Todd | Link to this comment | 11- 7-19 3:50 PM
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Quiet may be tricky, but:

Dishoom
Caravan
Duck & Waffle
Granger & Co (can't vouch for it but the buzz is good)


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 11- 7-19 3:51 PM
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Are 'duck' and 'waffle' meant as verbs?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11- 7-19 4:07 PM
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suddenly someone screams like a banshee, "ALEXA PLAY BILLIE HOLIDAY" or whatever, and then the music-shouter, having ruined all the ongoing conversations, beams proudly at his or her ability to summon music by shouting disruptively across the room

No.... No, man...Shit, no man. I believe you'd get your ass kicked saying somethin like that, man.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 11- 7-19 6:19 PM
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Yeah: Caravan was on my list, obviously, but Dishoom, in my experience, is very noisy. Don't know about, and will check out, the other two. Thanks.


Posted by: NW | Link to this comment | 11- 8-19 2:56 AM
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Ah. It turns out that "Duck and Waffle" are in this case verbs. They describe what happens when they bring the bill.
£6.00 for bread?
£45 for a roast chicken?
£18 for a nut roast?

I could go on,


Posted by: NW | Link to this comment | 11- 8-19 3:01 AM
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Duck & Waffle is definitely the most expensive one. I'm only recommending it if you actually eat the duck and waffle, which is a) wonderful, and b) not ridiculously expensive at £19.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 11- 8-19 3:36 AM
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Dishoom is a bit noisy but, you'll be entirely unsurprised to hear, my favourite. Bit much for brunch maybe?


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 11- 8-19 3:55 AM
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If you really want somewhere quiet, you're probably best just finding some gastropub. Proper brunch places tend to be busy and noisy.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 11- 8-19 4:00 AM
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Enjoy your contributions to global warming and the animal cruelty. I'm sure you're an okay person too.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 11- 8-19 10:39 AM
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56

Wrong fucking thread


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 11- 8-19 10:40 AM
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fwiw, Caravan, outside, was quiet, pleasant, and not too stupidly expensive. Granger and Co had a long queue even at 10:20 am


Posted by: NW | Link to this comment | 11-10-19 1:46 PM
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