- Researchers found people ignored Alexa safety concerns because of the voice
Alexa users trust the voice assistant because they see it as a secretary rather than a machine, a study has found.
Researchers from Oxford and Stanford University found they ignored concerns over privacy and surveillance because they saw the Amazon device as a companion.
When discussing it in a positive light, users would refer to Alexa as ‘she’ and ‘her’ – but when speaking about the device in the context of the technology giant they would use ‘it’ instead.
Professor Ekaterina Hertog of Oxford said: ‘This unstable use of pronouns potentially reflects users’ attempt to separate Alexa from Amazon deeming Alexa ‘trustworthy enough’ while continuing to distrust its parent company.’
Concerns have been raised over the amount of data collected by the Amazon smart speakers to build detailed user profiles
Published in the journal Convergence, the paper set out to investigate why more than 200million Alexa owners trust the technology in their homes ‘despite persistent public distrust of Amazon’.
Concerns have been raised over the amount of data collected by the Amazon smart speakers to build detailed user profiles.
As well as potentially being used for targeted advertising and being sold on to third parties, critics have warned the devices are also a prime target for hackers.
The study found however that users employ three strategies to manage the fears and misgivings of the AI-enabled machines that are becoming rapidly more intelligent.
Published in the journal Convergence, the paper set out to investigate why more than 200million Alexa owners trust the technology in their homes ‘despite persistent public distrust of Amazon’
Firstly, users view Alexa as having a separate identity from Amazon – and saw the device, pictured, itself as a ‘human-like feminised secretary’.
This enabled a ‘sense of security to be built around the technology’.
Secondly they just accepted personal data issues with a sense of ‘digital resignation’.
Thirdly, Alexa users said they set boundaries by not putting it in rooms they explicitly wanted to keep private, or by turning it off during sensitive conversations.
Co-author Elizabeth Fetterolf, a doctoral student at Stanford, said: ‘As people get more comfortable with the idea of ‘Alexa listening,’ this could result in a lack of appetite to take substantive steps both to protect privacy on the individual level and imagine any kind of collective resistance to the severe human and environmental toll associated with the device’s production.’