back to article More households invite creepy smart speakers indoors: Arch-slurper Google top dog for Q1

Google's creepy and dare we say invasive smart home kit is outgrowing sales in Europe of the creepy and dare we say invasive equivalent from arch-rival Amazon. The latest stats from IDC show smart speakers grew 58.1 per cent to 3.335 million units in Q1, equating to 15.8 per cent of the total smart home market. Google Home …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The average 'joe public' does not care

    about Google or Amazon listening in on their conversations and gathering data on their lives right from their living room or worse bedroom.

    They realldy don't value their privacy at all. They seem to think that as they have done nothing wrong, they have nothing to hide. Yeah right. Google and Amazon are ONLY in business to sell you more and more 'tat' that you don't need but they seem to think you might like...

    Stop feeding the twin dragons. Bezos isn't the richest man in the world for nowt.

    None of this shit will ever appear in my home. Both of them can go and get F****d.

    1. oiseau Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: The average 'joe public' does not care

      They seem to think that as they have done nothing wrong, they have nothing to hide.

      Average 'Joe Public' is made up of roughly 50% idiots.

      And idiots have been and will be idiots ...

      Always and everywhere.

      Unfortunately, there does not seem to be a way around that.

      O.

      1. N2 Silver badge

        Re: The average 'joe public' does not care

        Average 'Joe Public' is made up of roughly 50% idiots.

        More like 85-90%. They suck this stuff like crack.

        1. CountCadaver Bronze badge

          Re: The average 'joe public' does not care

          See Bookface and Dummynet for evidence of that......Often think its closer to 98%.....

    2. DougS Silver badge

      I think it is more they don't understand

      They don't realize just how invasive these things can be, and don't realize just how invasive Google is overall. The general public doesn't understand stuff like cookies and trackers, and how databases can be used to relate data collected from all sorts of different sources both online and off. Heck, I don't claim to fully understand it and I doubt more than a couple percentage of El Reg's readership (i.e. only those who have worked at Google, Facebook, etc.) possess the full picture either. If they don't know why using Chrome or Android is bad because it gives Google details of all your internet browsing, all your movements, etc. why should they be worried about it?

      What they need are concrete examples, talking about how much data they have is all well and good, but it is meaningless to them. They need examples of WHY this hurts them, but the close hold Google etc. keep on the reams of personal data they collect means it is usually limited to anecdotal stories of "creepy" like "I searched for x on my phone and then started seeing advertisements for x on TV" (in the US cable/satellite companies use DVRs to insert targeted ads during the ad time reserved for the carrier/provider whether watched live or recorded) This happened to a few of my friends, when I explained why that can happen they were angry at the cable company and not Google who was truly responsible...

      Ideally the truly scary details would be provided by a well placed former employee blowing the whistle, but when you hold millions in restricted stock in your former employer it tends to act as a disincentive to rock the boat even once you are out the door.

      1. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: I think it is more they don't understand

        "They don't realize just how invasive these things can be, and don't realize just how invasive Google is overall."

        This. Even worse, when you try to tell them they don't believe you.

        1. DougS Silver badge

          Re: I think it is more they don't understand

          Well to be fair if someone told me 20 years ago the amount of personal information and tracking that the average person would face in 2019, I'd have told them they need to lay off the conspiracy theories and quit viewing 1984 as a documentary.

          It is a more difficult task to explain this to people in a way that doesn't make them think you be a loon.

      2. I.Geller Bronze badge

        ...how databases can be used to relate data collected... both online and off.

        Below I gave the argument that Microsoft already knows how to remove lexical noise, has significantly improved the MT-DNN approach to NLU, and finally surpassed the estimate for human performance on the overall score on GLUE (87.6 vs. 87.1). That is, Microsoft is on the verge of creating AI databases.

        So, AI database does not need to steal from us our privacy, it may well exist structuring our data in our computers and leaving us our profiles. In other words, online espionage is no longer needed! and our personal data becomes our property.

        Advertisers don't need our readable-and-understandable data, they need only its patterns - they lose nothing if we use AI database. They don't lose anything.

        And if Microsoft doesn't make us free , doesn't start to make persona AI database - someone else will come and do it.

  2. Chris G Silver badge

    According to my neighbour, neither Amazon or Google respond to Catalan, at least not the Valencian version of it.

    After I explained some of the downsides he has told his wife that this technology is not permitted in his house.

  3. fidodogbreath Silver badge

    Not in my @#$% house

    That is all.

  4. I.Geller Bronze badge

    Microsoft is ready to sell AI. Are Google and Amazon?

    The fundamental principle for Personal Assistant is the presence of personal profile, which contains all the patterns structured into synonymous clusters (with all lexical noise purged; where such lexical noise is typically superfluous predictive definitions that do not explain the central themes contained within the digital textual information and, accordingly, removal of such noise often results in an improvement in the quality of the structured data).

    And these patterns-clusters help AI to find answers.

    Microsoft has already learned how to structure texts into the clusters and purge. For instance there is a sentence: "The city councilmen refused the demonstrators a permit because they [feared/advocated] violence.” If the word “feared” is selected, then “they” refers to the city council. If “advocated” is selected, then “they” presumably refers to the demonstrators.

    So either

    - city councilmen feared

    or

    - demonstrators feared

    is lexical noise.

    Either

    - city councilmen advocated

    or

    - demonstrators advocated

    is lexical noise.

    "The Microsoft team approved WNLI by a new method based on a novel deep learning model that frames the pronoun-resolution problem as computing the semantic similarity between the pronoun and its antecedent candidates" - Microsoft got the score after I many times explained how happily Alice and Bob trained.

    So Microsoft purges lexical noise and really ready to create and sell AI, as Personal Assistants. But can Google and Amazon? Haven't seen them able to delete and structure.

    1. __god__

      Re: Microsoft is ready to sell AI. Are Google and Amazon?

      Not sure why this received so many downvotes - I found it interesting so have an upvote from me.

      I'm no NLP expert so have no real appreciation for the current state of the art in language processing (in particular the deep semantic understanding or background knowledge or common sense reasoning that it seems would be required here). But I would like to find out more. Are there any links to this research?

  5. mark l 2 Silver badge

    My neighbour has recently bought an Amazon 'smart speaker' and I can hear him due to the thin walls asking it what songs to play. So when I see he is outside in the garden I shout through the wall to get Alexa to change the song that is playing to one I want to hear rather than the dross he listens to.

    But I really dont see the point of them tbh, My phone connected to a cheap £5 bluetooth transmitter on the HIFI can do exactly the same functionality with better sound quality and less privacy concerns.

    1. JohnFen Silver badge

      He very lucky that you're only changing the songs being played rather than doing things like ordering truckloads of cat litter.

      1. Goobertee

        JohnFen, you are not a nice person. I like that in a friend.

      2. John 104

        No kidding. Order up some goods for him. If it happens enough times maybe he'l bin the thing.

        1. I.Geller Bronze badge

          By the way, AI database is a blockchain database in which all records are stored in several personal profiles, located on several computers connected to a peer-to-peer network. In other words, your profile is synchronized between all your devices and is your property. Thus, any unauthorized attempt to manage someone else's profile will be instantly detected and stopped as soon as AI database became the standard.

          1. I.Geller Bronze badge

            Bitcoin and other surrogates are a thing of the past. Speculative and unsecured will soon be replaced by real-value electronic money, backed by personal AI databases/ AI profiles.

        2. CountCadaver Bronze badge

          Depending on how mean you are....

          Female sanitary products by the container load

          Engelber Humpherdinks/Russ Abbott/Des O Connor back collection

          Copious Marital Aids

          Merchandise for some "provocative bands"

          etc....

        3. Flywheel Silver badge
          Devil

          I notice *cough* that Amazon sell Pasante condoms in packs of 144, and at a price that you wouldn't notice too much on your statement. Could be interesting...

      3. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. RyokuMas Silver badge
      Coat

      In a previous role (for a digital agency), one of my colleagues was tasked with creating an Alexa app for a client. So he dutifully obtained said device, set it up and started work.

      Alas (for him) that he entered his credit card details and forgot to enable any kind of checks when it came to making purchases...

      "Alexa, buy a flipping huge telly on Neil's credit card!" was still bandied around the office a few months later when I left.

  6. FozzyBear Silver badge
    Go

    Dear El! Reg

    Please refrain from using the adjective "Smart" in future related stories about these devices.

    Honestly nothing about these listening devices is smart. The people that are installing them in their households certainly aren't, or at best, horribly ignorant of the invasive nature of these things.

    Might I suggest

    Voyeuristic

    prying

    invasive

    snooping

    probing

    Fuckingwasteofmoney ( my personal preference )

    I know these don't roll off the tongue like, smart. But then when has anyone here concerned themselves with appeasing the crayon brigade.

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

      Re: Dear El! Reg

      IoT - Invasion of Tat

      sounds good to me

    2. I.Geller Bronze badge

      Re: Dear El! Reg

      Google and Amazon, spying and stealing, create our profiles, which they need for the annotating of our search queries' patterns. That is, they extract patterns from search queries, find and add contextually similar explanatory patterns from our profiles.

      In contrast, AI needs no intermediaries to find the explanatory patterns in our profiles and adds new patterns to our queries without the help of third parties, like Google, FB, Amazon and Oracle.

      That's the reason I've been banging my head against the wall for 10 years, trying to explain what AI is. This is the reason why the disinformation campaign about AI's nature is so strong. Companies like Google, Amazon, Oracle and FB are just parasites making money on nothing at all! They make billions from a thin air doing nothing. Fighting me they fight for their money!

  7. Char Gar Gothakon

    Hey Google, What's The Point?

    I had a Google Home speaker. I turned it off as I couldn't think of anything to ask it. I didn't use it for music as I had an ample collection of music and a system way better to listen to it (plus I make my own and tend to listen to that mostly). I didn't use it to work a calendar as I don't have enough events in my life to track. I didn't use it to control home appliances or a TV because I hardly have any smart devices. I suppose I got bored and tired of asking it what is the temperature outside. It finally got annoying because it started occasionally talking on its own without anybody or anything intervening. The fact that this happened in the middle of the night prompted the unplug.

    Google keeps sending me suggested questions I can ask but none of them appeal to me: (Google, call me an Uber. Ah, no thanks Google.) For a company that is supposed to know everything about me, Google seems to have no idea how I should interact with it via voice. Maybe something like "Hey Google, I'm going out for awhile. Read War And Peace to the cats in Fran Drescher's voice." If I actually had a compelling use for it I would use it, but I don't.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Hey Google, What's The Point?

      I turned the assistant off on my phone as well.

      I went over the recordings that Google had made. I used the service twice in 6 months, there were around 130 recordings on Google!

      Most were either my boss in the next room saying "Ok, ok, I'll do that." or wind when I was out walking the dog, plus some random conversation snippets.

      I deleted the history, paused it and disabled the assistant on my phones.

  8. Winkypop Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Orwell imagined the State installing Telescreens

    I don't think he imagined that the people themselves would voluntarily buy and install the bloody things.

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: Orwell imagined the State installing Telescreens

      Too bad that the likes of Google and Amazon have decided that 1984 is not fiction but V1 of a surveilance state instruction manual. They are working from V10 now.

      In their world

      Walls really do have ears

      Careless talk will cost you money and lots of it.

      A plague on both of them.

      1. Flywheel Silver badge

        Re: Orwell imagined the State installing Telescreens

        I highly recommend a Czech film, Ucho - The Ear. Husband (senior ministry official) and wife find their house is riddled with listening devices put there by his own ministry. Well worth a watch...

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    While I totally understand the privacy concerns, nobody is forcing anybody to have them installed unlike in 1984.

    If you only knew what HMRC holds on you (without using this technology) these devices would be the least of your worries.

    Personally I like and enjoy the technology and find it useful, while being aware there is a mute button and you can always unplug it for those times you may feel particularly paranoid about you privacy.

    I feel there are more security/privacy concerns about that laptop your using. You have taped over the camera and disabled the mic haven't you ? No?

    1. RyokuMas Silver badge
      Stop

      Er, actually...

      "... nobody is forcing anybody to have them installed...

      A while back, I needed a new boiler. When I saw the quotes, I noticed that they all included a NEST "smart" thermostat, which I immediately questioned.

      According to the fitters, UK law requires at least one "energy saving measure" be applied when a new boiler is installed, with the smart thermostat apparently being the one of choice (given Google Home devices are/were being given away with BT broadband sign-ups, I would not be surprised if there was some kind of deal behind this).

      Of course, my response was a more polite version of "I don't want that Google spy-crap in my home thanks, what's the alternative?" I probably paid a little more in the end, too. But at least I know that my thermostat isn't listening to every word I say...

      And I can't help but wonder how many homes now have a Google listening device in them simply because of current legislation...

      1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Er, actually...

        Yeah when you look at Boiler Plus' "energy saving measures" to choose from, most of them seem sensible.

        All except the "Smart controls" option which they admit has no proven efficiency or energy saving capability yet it's in there anyway.

        Smacks of behind-the-scenes shenanigans.

      2. Patrician

        Re: Er, actually...

        That was the home security and alarm system Nest Secure, not the Nest Thermostat; there is no microphone in the thermostat.

        "Google confirms with Business Insider that there's no microphone in any of its flagship Nest Learning Thermostat product line "

        https://www.businessinsider.com/google-nest-products-with-microphones-2019-2?r=US&IR=T

    2. EnviableOne Bronze badge

      "nobody is forcing anybody to have them installed unlike in 1984."

      just wait untill you get labeled a deviant with something to hide for not having one, the thought police will be round to install the device of your "choice", once volunteers reach a critical mass.

      end minitrue

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
        Trollface

        I take no measures to hide myself from the state, but I keep a very low profile in every other regard.

        I don't see that becoming an issue unless Amazon/Google starts writing all our laws for us.

        1. RyokuMas Silver badge
          Trollface

          "I don't see that becoming an issue unless Amazon/Google starts writing all our laws for us."

          I'll just leave this here...

  10. Danny Boyd
    Devil

    But, but ... Of course Europeans are safe buying eavesdropping machinery from Google and Amazon. GDPR protects them, n'est ce pas?

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