Hacking My Smart Assistant is Not OK

Pet Peeve: Unintentional Triggering

One of my pet peeves about Alexa is how it tends to pick up wake words from the TV shows I’m watching.  When it surprises us and suddenly says, “I’m sorry I didn’t understand the question I heard.”  This is probably a bug, Alexa misheard her wake word from the show.   This response is not as alarming as, “You don’t have an account set up with [Advertiser], would you like to set one up?” in response to a commercial that deliberately said, “Alexa, order … from …”  Hacking my smart assistant is not ok!

I am not brave enough to try shopping via voice commands. Please don’t force me to do it!  I have seen and read about too many e-commerce nightmares to shop on a non-secure device.  Imagine how many pizzas you could have ordered while watching TV if you had an account set up?

Interactive Ads = Hacking

It has not been too much of a problem with Google Home because most of the ads target Alexa users.  But now apparently Burger King is deliberately triggering Google Home to make their ads more interactive. Interactive is NOT the word I would use!  What you are effectively doing is hacking, you are getting someone’s assistant to do an action without their permission.  This is like injecting malicious code into a vulnerable website and taking website users somewhere else without their permission.

Maybe these advertisers need to conduct usability studies and watch how people react when Alexa is unintentionally woken.  It is not a good user experience, it does not make users happy when this happens.  I bought these assistants to make my life easier, not to help you sell more burgers!

Artificial Intelligence: A Double-Edged Sword

The tech blogger who wrote the article about this ad wasn’t sure why the company used Google Home instead of the more widespread Alexa.  It’s because the company is asking a question in the ad and Google Home provides the answer it wants.

I was reminded of Google Home’s advantage at answering questions just last night when I asked Alexa when peaches are in season.  I noticed that my grocery didn’t carry the fruit anymore and wondered why.  Alexa didn’t understand the question, but Google Home told me they were in season as early as May and as late as September.  It further explained that because of the early warm weather, this season may shift slightly.  Question answered!

Google Home is usually the clear winner when I ask questions.  My husband doesn’t seem to agree though. Every time I ask him a question he can’t answer he directs me to Alexa.  Apparently BK’s advertising agency are Google Home fans too!

Hacking My Smart Assistant is NOT OK

Please stop corrupting my brilliant question-answering device.  And Google, please hurry up and develop technology that will differentiate between the voices you are listening to.  Just like that vulnerable website that was hacked, Google and Amazon have a responsibility to secure these smart assistants.

Thank You, Google!

Two hours after the BK ad was revealed, Google put an end to the whole thing (read more).  Now that’s a great response time!