Lots of times I’ll see people trash-talking Alexa on Facebook. They’ll assert that they’ll never get Alexa because she is a dirty spy. I don’t deny that Alexa has an always-on microphone and my wifi password, but these same Alexa-haters all have phones. Phones have microphones, too! You don’t really know if your phone’s microphone is on or off. You have no idea if your phone is always recording everything in its environment and then sending the data back to some mothership. Your phone could be just as untrustworthy as you believe Alexa to be.
One of my friends had some tin-foil hat argument in defense of his phone. Well, it was more of a potato chip bag argument. He asserts that if you turn your phone off and then put it in a potato chip bag and come back several hours later and turn it back on and if the battery has not significantly run down its charge, then your phone can be trusted. (Really all this proves is that the phone was not franticly searching for a signal while it was in the bag. If I were writing the software for a spy-phone, I wouldn’t have it constantly searching for a signal. I’d be more subtle about it.)
This is why I was so gleeful when I heard about the FaceTime bug that allowed people to spy on their friends via their iPhones. Evidence that phones are capable of the same sort of stuff that Alexa has been accused of. But wielded by people who actually know you and who actually care about what you might be saying as opposed to Amazon, a company that is allegedly so inept with data that they have different SKUs for the same product in different versions of their stores.