Amazon and Google Now Require Continuous Data From Other Smarthome Devices

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    An anonymous reader quotes CNET: For years, smart speakers from Amazon, Google and Apple have traded data back and forth with other devices in the home. This is how their voice assistants turn on the smart lights. But in early 2019, something changed: Amazon and Google began requiring continuous status-change updates from devices — requiring, for instance, partnered smart bulbs to send data to Amazon or Google any time they are turned on or off… Before automatic status updates, if you asked your voice assistant to turn on the lights, Alexa or Google Assistant had to ping the smart bulbs to check whether they were already on, receive the status, then send the appropriate command. With status updates in place, the first two steps of that process were excised… It was a seemingly small change and one that received modest media coverage, but some smart home developers are increasingly uncomfortable with the change… After probing further, it appears that not only do status updates make users and their data more vulnerable to attack, but it also gives these tech giants access to more home occupancy data than ever before. Despite the discomfort of numerous partners, Google and Amazon have shown no willingness to alter course… “[Status update] data gives platforms [like Google and Amazon] a privileged position that no one manufacturer enjoys,” said Brad Russell, the Research Director of smart home devices at research firm Parks Associates Inc. While Amazon says it doesn’t sell the data it gathers to third parties or use it for targeted advertising, that data is still of tremendous value to the company. In much the same way it can tell how many times per year Alexa users ask for the time, then create a product based on that data, Amazon can now tell where you spend your time in your house, when you’re awake and when you’re sleeping and countless other life patterns you’re only vaguely aware of yourself. Google, too, profits from this data, though it seems more reluctant to admit it. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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