The Risks of an Alexa & Cortana Courtship

Amazon and Microsoft have introduced their voice assistants and, well, they hit it off.

In public displays of affection, the two companies announced this week that later this year " Alexa will be able to talk to Cortana, and Cortana will be able to talk to Alexa." The partnership - where each are basically guests in each other's "houses" - makes sense in many ways but forgive those not jumping for joy.

A person using Windows 10 PCs can ask Cortana to open up Alexa, for example, then place an order on Amazon and get back to work quickly (perhaps even order dinner ingredients to be waiting on their doorstep when they get home). Likewise, users can leverage Alexa to access work schedules or even read work emails (with voice). The possibilities are really only limited to the skills that are built by third-party developers. For companies though, they have to consider if they would want to allow for employees to access schedules, contacts, emails and more to be read aloud in their homes. And, do employees really need to bring home more work?

While many situations will be harmless, a "smart work" coupled with a "smart home" poises great security and privacy risks. Not only will those with malicious intent find a way to exploit both, but governmental agencies are already trying to access these always on, always listening devices. Amazon has not given into pressure  to release recordings but the fact that they exist should be a problem for everyone, even with nothing to hide. A long line of surveys, however, indicate that people are willing to give up privacy for convenience (heck, even insert a microchip to buy items from vending machines). Recent research even found that employees are more concerned with their battery being drained from geofencing from employers than their privacy; wake up.