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This weird new gadget stops Amazon’s Alexa spying on you

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Your spying gadget needs an anti-spying gadget. Somewhere, John Le Carré sniggers.


Paranoid

It was the column that launched screams around America.

Last week, I wrote about a UK law firm that suggested Amazon‘s Alexa and her cohorts should be switched off before you have any confidential work-related conversations.

Now that you’re likely working from home, this seemed like important news.

Naturally, I received many tweets from the nation’s freedom fighters, insisting that no, they’d never have an Amazon Echo, Google Home or Apple HomePod in their castles.

However, I also heard from the inventively paranoid. Or, rather from the people behind Paranoid.

“Yo,” these people said. “We have a gadget for that.”

“Not another bloody gadget,” I grunted. “Isn’t it the ultimate in never-ending Horror Hall Of Mirrors when a new gadget tries to solve the security problem of another gadget?”

(Yes, I paraphrased that exchange somewhat.)

But here, my friends, is Paranoid. This is a product that automatically mutes your Amazon Echo, Google Home or the like. Until, that is, you really want to talk to it/her/them.

I wanted to read all the PR blurb, of course. First, though, I went to YouTube to find what Paranoid calls its “Fun Commercials.”

Oh, what fun. Here, for example, is a family that just can’t understand why they’re getting mobile ads for things they talk about at home.

This family doesn’t have an Alexa or Hey Google. It has an Orwell. (Did they pay someone to write this ad?) And, well, of course, it’s the teenage son who alerts the family to the potential of Paranoid. Teenage boys are always in the know. In YouTube ads, at least.

Please, I should say something more about this Paranoid product. The PR blurb explains that this puck-like object has “a small circuit board that blocks all audio input to a smart speaker, and allows it only after hearing the wake word.”

Yes, you have another wake word to remember. And that word is “Paranoid.” Really.

It’s enough to drive you mad, of course. “Hey Paranoid, tell Alexa we actually want something from her now and we hope she’s not offended that we didn’t want her listening to our Amazon employees mass walkout conference call.”

You, though, will be paranoid enough to imagine that Paranoid could get hacked. The makers insist not: “The circuit board is entirely self-contained, with no Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connection to the internet. And, therefore, no access to potential hackers.”

Paranoid has various versions. Not only is there the Paranoid Home Button that physically depresses the Echo’s mute button, but there’s also Paranoid Home Wave. This “discreetly generates noise and interference in close proximity to the smart speaker’s microphones to jam them.”

But there’s also the Paranoid Home Max. Now, this entirely reconfigures your smart speaker: “The user takes or ships their smart speaker to service centers, where technicians physically cut the microphone and bypass the signal to go through the Paranoid circuitry. The device is then returned with Paranoid privacy built-in.”

Because Amazon, Google, and friends would hate to put you to all that trouble.

I can only weep.

We’ve been so lazy that we’ve allowed these supposedly smart gadgets into our homes, just to witness the marvel of them switching on our lights. Now we’re so lazy that we can’t be bothered to mute these things, but need another gadget to do it for us.

I look forward to a wonderful future when citizens spend their time at home uttering “Paranoid” all the time.

By the by, the parent company of Paranoid is, oh, Pleasant Solutions.


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