Inquiry into security of 'sinister' smart speakers used by 20m Brits

Hey Alexa, are you spying on me? MPs launch inquiry into security of ‘sinister’ smart speakers now used by 20million Britons

  • MPs are set to launch an inquiry into how smart speakers have reshaped our lives
  • This will look at devices such as smart hubs, virtual assistants and wearable tech 
  • It will be carried out by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee
  • Concerns have been raised about how they impact on privacy and collect data

MPs will launch an inquiry that will look at the security of ‘sinister’ smart speakers that are now being used by 20 million people in the UK. 

The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee is set to investigate the increasing popularity and impact of connected devices that use speech recognition software.

This includes smart hubs powered by virtual assistants such as Alexa and Siri, as well as wearable tech.  

The committee will look at how these devices have reshaped life in homes and workplaces, and look at what needs to be done to ensure they are safe and secure to use.

The inquiry will look into technologies such as Siri (pictured), a virtual assistant found on iPhones, and how they have reshaped our lives

Such devices are marketed as smart assistants able to help users multi-task more easily and better organise their lives, as well as stay informed, improve accessibility and aid connectivity.

Devices such as Amazon’s Echo range of smart home hubs have become hugely popular in recent years, while Voicebot.ai reports as of early 2021 there were 20million smart speaker users in the UK. 

Many gadgets now also include the ability to use a voice-activated virtual assistant.

However, there have been concerns raised in the past about user privacy and data collection, while the Committee said it also wanted to look into security concerns and the possible hacking of such gadgets.

MPs said they would look into both the benefits and the threats of the technology, as well as their impact on different parts of society.

Conservative MP Julian Knight, who chairs the DCMS Committee, said: ‘The innocent little box sitting inconspicuously in the corner of the room would seem to offer the ultimate in convenience, magically serving up information on demand, turning on lights or delivering a vast array of music.

‘With such a smart set-up connected to the outside world however there is always the danger it will have a more sinister side, with users potentially sacrificing privacy, put at risk of cybercrime, or left open to uncovering harmful content online.

Devices such as Amazon’s Echo (pictured) range of smart home hubs have become hugely popular in recent years

‘Our inquiry will examine the risks and rewards from the rising popularity of connected tech in the home and beyond, whether it should be properly designed to protect everyone in society and to what extent the current rules governing smart technology are fit for a rapidly changing future.’

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