Transcribing private conversations

Big Tech transcribes samples recorded from the microphones at our homes. We know this.

I was honestly surprised that the Danish newspaper Politiken chose to treat the fact that Apple and Google had had private conversations of their users transcribed as news (behind paywall, so the story can be found referenced elsewhere).

I was surprised since I have for the past month wondered if I should write an update to this story – I mean, I have written about it a number of times, at least since 2015 – but a number of new developments had presented themselves so I could have.

But I was additionally surprised when the journalist chose to use Apple and Google, when the real news was that Facebook had done so as well without the permission of their users.

There is absolutely no surprise in the story that cloud-based microphone services record samples. It is also no surprise that this is done by more or less random (read: cheap) third parties on behalf of the Big Tech companies like Microsoft (not just Cortana, also Skype), Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook (2), LG and Samsung and toy companies like Mattel. We knew this and have known this for years. See also the stories about Amazon Ring, and remember to smile to the camera.

And the reason I didn’t write about it this time is that we really can’t be surprised that Facebook did this without permission from their users, because this is what Facebook does. Those links are just some of the stories about Facebook abusing trust, decency and, quite likely, laws.

So let’s make this perfectly clear, in two separate and specific statements:

Any internet connected camera or microphone, or indeed any internet connected sensor (GPS, inertia, health-monitor), will leak sensitive personal information to the service providers.


Facebook will continue to abuse the trust people place in them; they exist to exploit other people’s private information, it is the only reason they exist and not doing so would require the company to be rebuild from the bottom up.

See also the first, second and fourth laws:

First law: Everything you write will be read. Everything you say will be heard. Everything you do will be seen.

Second law: All data that can be linked will be linked.

Fourth law: All data lives forever.

And I’ll add this, just for good measure even though the rest of the story doesn’t even touch on this, yet:

Sixth law: All stored data will eventually suffer leaks.

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2 Responses to Transcribing private conversations

  1. Pingback: Listening in on other people’s children | Hennings blog

  2. Pingback: Facebook accidentally accessing your camera | Hennings blog

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