A newly revealed patent application filed byAmazon is raising privacy concerns over anenvisaged upgrade to the company's smart speakersystems.
This change would mean that, by default, thedevices end up listening to and recordingeverything you say in their presence.
Alexa, Amazon's virtual assistant system that runs on the company's Echo series of smartspeakers, works by listening out for a 'wakeword' that tells the device to turn on its extendedspeech recognition systems in order to respond to spoken commands.
On Amazon's devices, the wakeword is 'Alexa', but similar systems control how Apple deviceswork ('Hey Siri') and also Google's ('Hey Google'), not to mention products from other techcompanies.
In theory, Alexa-enabled devices will only record what you say directly after the wakeword, which is then uploaded to Amazon, where remote servers use speech recognition to deduceyour meaning, then relay commands back to your local speaker.
But one issue in this flow of events, as Amazon's recently revealed patent application argues, is it means that anything you say before the wakeword isn't actually heard.
"A user may not always structure a spoken command in the form of a wakeword followed by acommand (eg. 'Alexa, play some music')," the Amazon authors explain in their patentapplication, which was filed back in January, but only became public last week.
"Instead, a user may include the command before the wakeword (eg. 'Play some music, Alexa') or even insert the wakeword in the middle of a command (eg. 'Play some music, Alexa, theBeatles please'). While such phrasings may be natural for a user, current speech processingsystems are not configured to handle commands that are not preceded by a wakeword."