Confession: I have an Amazon Echo. I really like Amazon Echo. I use Amazon Echo almost every day.
Everything about the Amazon Echo is great, except for the primary feature of the Amazon Echo: it is always listening. When I received the Echo nearly five years ago, as a gift, Amazon was not quite the Surveillance Capitalism behemoth that it is now. They packaged their new smart speaker with lots of information about privacy and what Echo can and can’t and won’t do.
Of course, none of that turned out to be true. In just the last year, Echos have been turned into permanent recording devices, listened to a couple’s conversations and then inexplicably sent those conversations to the husband’s employer, and sent 1,700 voice recordings to a totally random stranger. Amazon hasn’t exactly done much to help the image of Echos as Bradburian household horrors, unveiling an Echo Dot for Kids, filling patents for true always-on recording, releasing recordings to outside contractors, and, perhaps most egregious of all, embedding Alexa into a Big Mouth Billy Bass.
It’s reached the point where no one should feel comfortable having an always-on speaker in their home, but damn if these little things aren’t just so convenient. On top of being useful for quick searches, playing Baby Shark on repeat 40 times, checking the weather, and dozens of other little things, the original Echo was a really good speaker. It seems a waste to throw the whole thing away just because one feature is unacceptable.