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The real cost of smart speakers

Alexa’s recording you. What’s she doing with it?

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This holiday season, you’re likely to know someone who buys or receives a smart speaker. One in five US households already have one, and 18 million are expected to ship in the last quarter of 2020. Amazon, Google, and Apple make the most popular models, which now include voice-activated headphones, rings, eyeglasses, and doorbells.

But essentially, smart speakers are microphones that connect to the internet. And they come with a hidden cost: some of our privacy. After listening to our questions and demands, these devices send recordings to servers where they can be stored indefinitely. But what do these tech companies do with the recordings?

Watch the video above to learn what we know and don’t know about how smart speakers use our data.

You can find this video and all of Vox’s videos on YouTube. And join the Open Sourced Reporting Network to help us report on the real consequences of data, privacy, algorithms, and AI.

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Correction, December 29, 2020: 18 million smart speakers are estimated to ship in the last quarter of 2020, not 1.8 million.