Amazon Echo

This is one of those cyclic and circular conversations that I've always found interesting. I think the argument of "I don't care if they know I like Justin Bieber" is a bit reductionist compared to the larger point of data privacy and security, and I don't think that the tin foil hats are entirely justified and that the Echo is, in all likelihood, a fairly benign device that won't work very well.

Still, these conversations happen with each technological boon for the consumer, and it always ends up with exchanging privacy and ownership with convenience and quality of life. So far, in the last 10-15 years, convenience and quality of life win out every time. (Unless I'm missing something.) Part of me says "f*ck it, let's ride the wave" but at the same time...

Michael wrote:

This is one of those cyclic and circular conversations that I've always found interesting. I think the argument of "I don't care if they know I like Justin Bieber" is a bit reductionist compared to the larger point of data privacy and security, and I don't think that the tin foil hats are entirely justified and that the Echo is, in all likelihood, a fairly benign device that won't work very well.

Still, these conversations happen with each technological boon for the consumer, and it always ends up with exchanging privacy and ownership with convenience and quality of life. So far, in the last 10-15 years, convenience and quality of life win out every time. (Unless I'm missing something.) Part of me says "f*ck it, let's ride the wave" but at the same time...

That's fair..but we routinely (I say we but in reality you might be different) routinely use Cell Phones and Broadband internet at our homes which are being spied upon constantly and there is pretty much nothing we can do about it. I have no doubt that the Government as well as nefarious agencies can get into all my data that is stored on various cloud services as well as anything I have in terms of e-commerce/banking.

While it's not ideal I'm not sure what at this point can be done about it short of a worldwide revolution on a mass scale along the lines of Deus Ex and JC Denton shutting down Helios and putting the world in a technological dark age.

That's pretty much where I'm at. My privacy, such as it is, is more illusion than anything else. So I might as well experiment and see if I can get some more convenience.

If at some point I have roommates or start dating again (hah) maybe my stance on the Echo will get tweaked some out of respect for the wishes of others, but for now... meh.

So, I understand all the concerns. I also just think we already live in a world where:

1: If a bad actor wants to target me, I'll be targeted successfully. There are just way too many vectors for me to think that short of going off grid I have any true privacy.

2: I already believe essentially everything I'm doing is footprinting anyway. I worked in computer security for a while -- enough to understand the tech capabilities so I could write about them for laypeople and such. The vast majority of my communication happens intermediated by technology. Very little interesting is said within my house using voices except at large events when I would intentionally turn stuff off anyway.

3: I do not believe that I personally will be the first person targeted for SWATing based on law-enforcement co-option of this or any other tech, and for $100, I'll round-file the thing if that ever turns out to be the case.

4: To the extent law enforcement ever has cause to get a warrant to spy on me (no matter how trumped up or "sweep warrant" it is) they have plenty of ways of getting anything they want anyway.

So yes, like *every* aspect of a digital identity, I would be actively inviting big brother into my life. That's what I do by having a twitter account, a telephone, a website, a kinect, webcams, using MINT, using credit cards, using paypal. Each one is a tradeoff of how much I care about my privacy vs. what I think I get in return.

Everyone can make that decision for themselves.

EDIT: and before someone says "but what about people who are visiting, do THEY know?" -- well, do you know for sure every house your in doesn't contain a loaded firearm in the upstairs bedroom nightstand? THAT's something I think we could ACTUALLY worry about and which ACTUALLY kills children. I live in the country -- it's a very real issue we've had to actually deal with.

rabbit wrote:

If a bad actor wants to target me, I'll be targeted successfully.

IMAGE(http://s12.postimg.org/nyhz5ujv1/image.jpg)

rabbit wrote:

do you know for sure every house your in doesn't contain a loaded firearm in the upstairs bedroom nightstand? THAT's something I think we could ACTUALLY worry about and which ACTUALLY kills children.

Annnnnnnd, welcome to Cleveland. IMAGE(http://static-cdn.jtvnw.net/jtv_user_pictures/chansub-global-emoticon-c8a77ec0c49976d3-22x30.png)

If a bad actor wants to target me, I'll be targeted successfully. There are just way too many vectors for me to think that short of going off grid I have any true privacy.

There's no point in adding to the body of data about you. Storing every word that's spoken within range of every Fire is well within the capabilities of the NSA. An absolutely naive, 24x7x365 MP3 at 32K would be about 120 gigs a year, and after doing a little engineering, I'm sure they could get that down to 10-15 gigs, since it'll be silent so much of the time.

You're right that they can get you if they deliberately target you, but what you're doing with a device like this is volunteering for the mass dragnet. Further, you make life just that little bit more dangerous for the privacy-conscious and political activists of all stripes, because if enough people start using these devices, the ones that refuse them will come under much more intense surveillance.

Remember, one thing that is deeply and terribly true about American law enforcement: they have no sense of humor. Giving those guys a 24x7 tap into your house is stupid beyond reason.

"If you give me six lines written by the most honest man, I will find something in them to hang him."

-- Cardinal Richelieu.

Or any career prosecutor. They don't get promotions by being nice.

Stupid might be a strong word.. how about reckless?? or thrill seeker? or Maverick!?

Yes.. I like Maverick.

Eh, I don't want one because I always feel like a jackass talking to inanimate objects. I don't even use the cool Google Now speech functionality on my phone. If i want info, I type it, like God meant for it to be.

Nevin73 wrote:

Eh, I don't want one because I always feel like a jackass talking to inanimate objects. I don't even use the cool Google Now speech functionality on my phone. If i want info, I type it, like God meant for it to be.

o/

clover wrote:
Nevin73 wrote:

Eh, I don't want one because I always feel like a jackass talking to inanimate objects. I don't even use the cool Google Now speech functionality on my phone. If i want info, I type it, like God meant for it to be.

o/

Praise God, the world's largest inanimate object?

Apparently, the emails have started going out to people who can buy one of these. Are any of you among the lucky/duped?

Not yet but I will be putting on my rose colored glasses and clicking buy if I get the email.

I will be there, too, if I get the email. One thing that I found very interesting: Amazon put out the source code for it. I may have to look at it, see how these things work.

I got the email but haven't ordered my way into guinea pig status yet. The money I had set aside for this went elsewhere.

Well, it appears mine is coming... eventually? Thanks, amazon, for that 3 month window.

I love mine. We've had it for a month now and I can easily recommend it.

I got mine just before Christmas, and forgot to say anything about it... Now I feel bad.

In short, it's a pretty cool little toy and clearly in beta. Right now it get used for music more than anything else. The speech recognition works really well, much better than I expected it to for a beta. The functionality is a little lacking. In my house, it has been used mostly to play music, but it is limited to what is on Prime Music and my own library, which is limited in size without another Amazon annual subscription service. There are some oddities in what it understands when requesting a song, too. One good example is if someone says, "Alexa, play 'Come Sail Away'", it will begin playing the version in my library of Cartman from South Park singing it, instead of the Styx original. Being explicit with "Come Sail Away by Styx" seems to work just fine, though. I haven't noticed any other ties to Amazon's offerings beyond the Music Unlimited/Prime Music, such as verbally adding things to wishlists or even a shopping cart. It also doesn't seem to have any access to traffic information, which would be a hugely useful service to ask it before heading out the door.

One thing that probably doesn't matter, is that it seems to require a tablet of some sort to use it. I haven't checked for an Echo app on my computer, but I had to download that app on either my Kindle Fire or my Android tablet to set up the Echo in the first place. The app keeps a list of voice commands as it heard them, and has a "Did I hear you correctly" after every one. From the app, you can skip songs that are playing, or change the output volume of the speaker. I haven't found much other use in that yet.

For 100 bucks, it is a nice toy. I had a boom box with an iPod dock in my living room before to get music, now I have replaced that with the Echo, and it is rather nice to be able to give it voice commands. It also democratizes the music selection since anyone in the room can tell it to skip songs or change the volume - this can be a huge pain if one person really wants to hear a new song every 30 seconds, but overall the trade-off is worth it. For 200 bucks, I would not consider it unless some big features start getting added quickly.

oilypenguin wrote:

Well, it appears mine is coming... eventually? Thanks, amazon, for that 3 month window.

I ordered mine last week and was told it would be 6 - 8 weeks. Then I see on Twitter that John Scalzi ordered one and is getting it next week. UNFAIR! Just because I'm not a successful author, I don't get to jump the line?!

We keep ours in the kitchen and the shopping list function of, "Alexa, add milk to the shopping list" is awesome. I wish there was a Windows Phone version of the Echo app, other than that it's great for music, time, alarms, weather and quickly adding items you might forget to write down for the grocery store.

Hemidal wrote:

We keep ours in the kitchen and the shopping list function of, "Alexa, add milk to the shopping list" is awesome. I wish there was a Windows Phone version of the Echo app, other than that it's great for music, time, alarms, weather and quickly adding items you might forget to write down for the grocery store.

I just signed up for the waiting list after hearing how well the shopping list feature works. I'm hoping to train my wife to use it because I do all the shopping and I always "forget" things. (Translation: She didn't put it on our shared shopping list.) I'm justifying the purchase because it's also a decent Bluetooth speaker for a small kitchen. Hopefully they get outside app support such as Pandora, Evernote, etc in the future.

I know it comes with a mic'ed remote, but does anyone know if you can speak to it via the app?

Got the invite email last week, excitedly ordered over the weekend. Delivery date... end of May.

Ah well. Looking forward to putting in the kitchen for some convenient music delivery while I slave away cooking for my family.

ubrakto wrote:

Got the invite email last week, excitedly ordered over the weekend. Delivery date... end of May.

Ah well. Looking forward to putting in the kitchen for some convenient music delivery while I slave away cooking for my family.

Got my email today. Order placed. Can't wait!

Mine came today. I'm digging it so far.

I've had mine for about 3 months now and I love it. They keep adding great features. I use it for exercising and listening to music in the kitchen. I also use it as a hands free timer which is a great little benefit. Now they added the ability to reorder things that you've ordered on Prime before. You just tell it to reorder something, it searches your history for it and then will buy it using your default prime settings. If there are multiple matches, it tells you about them. This is awesome and so dangerous at the same time.

Our Echo primarily resides in the kitchen as well. Awesome for adding things to the shopping list on top of all the other things listed above.

I got the notice, back in February, that mine was shipping in May. Now it says July-August.

Mine has said June-July for ages now. Hope they don't push it back.

I just got mine yesterday.. it feels more natural in the Kitchen and so far I can see it being very useful.

Finally got her! We're loving it so far. I'm surprised it works as well as it does.

I almost bought a couple of WeMo light switches to play with, but realized Belkin doesn't make dimmer switches yet.

Pandora works great (thought it only worked on Bluetooth) and I love that it supports Google Calendar and multiple accounts. If this is early days, I'm really looking forward to future updates.