British Survey 2 Feature

45% of British Voice Assistant Owners Don’t Know Their Conversations Are Recorded: Survey

More than a third of British voice assistant device owners forget they are there sometimes, according to a newly published survey from Code Computerlove. While privacy concerns are making some reluctant to use smart speakers and displays, nearly half of the people responding to the survey didn’t know the devices can record and store conversations.

Voice Assistant Use Limited Less by Tech

The 1,000 British owners of voice assistant-powered devices reported calling upon their voice assistants very frequently, with 70% using them at least once a day. But, those numbers might even be higher if it weren’t for a variety of different factors. The study found one surprising barrier to smart speaker user engagement with 38% saying one reason they don’t use their smart speaker more often is “I forget it’s there.” The 38% who forget about their devices is only 4% higher than was reported in a similar survey from 16 months earlier.

On the other hand, voice technology’s improvement in that time corresponds with a drop in the percentage of people citing either the voice assistant not understanding them or getting the answer wrong as a reason not to use it more, from 24% to 18%. That doesn’t appear to have affected the steady 10% of people who say that the voice assistant doesn’t do what they want it to do. And boredom as a reason not to use the voice assistant more only dropped by a single percentage point between surveys to 8%.

Privacy Concerns Grow

Besides forgetfulness, the biggest reason respondents don’t use their voice assistants more is because of worries about the kind of data collected by the devices. The percentage of people pointing to that concern as their reason grew from 19% to 23% between the first and second surveys.

That kind of concern makes sense at first when considering the blitz of stories questioning how well voice assistants protect user privacy. Over the last few months, Google, Apple, and Amazon have all faced questions about how they record and share information from voice assistants. Each of the companies has adjusted and clarified their policies in some form, but the worries raised by those stories haven’t disappeared.

Nonetheless, the potential blowback to voice assistant developers could be smaller than voice assistant makers had hoped. This survey collected data in late September, yet 45% of the respondents weren’t even aware that their devices record and store conversations. Some of the biggest stories about voice assistant privacy gaps were broken by the British media, but that did not translate to people knowing how voice assistants gather data. Approximately four-fifths of the respondents said they were ‘very concerned’ about home voice assistants recording them, but only 14% of device owners had made any changes to the privacy settings.

It may be that awareness of the privacy controversy is simply slow to filter to the broader population or that it is not something British voice assistant users see as problematic. That doesn’t mean voice assistant companies are free from reputational damage in the future. Researchers have recently uncovered new vulnerable points to hackers in voice assistants. Some of the hacks are more dangerous than others, but they all represent issues that voice assistant makers need to address if they want people to speak with their voice assistants without privacy concerns holding them back. A feature to remind owners of their devices might be a good idea too.


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