Recently, a report came out stating that Alexa, the voice-controlled device, is listening to private conversations in homes.
At first, I was a little concerned and a bit outraged. I mean, who wants something (or someone) eavesdropping on what goes on in the privacy of his/her own home?
Then I got to thinking about it, and I realized that if Alexa wants to listen to what goes on in our home, then fine, go right ahead. But, Alexa—brace yourself.
“Alexa,” for the uninitiated, is a little speaker that sits on a tabletop surface and you connect to your internet. The proper name of the device is Amazon Echo, and Alexa is the built-in digital assistant—similar to Apple’s Siri—that responds to voice commands.
You “wake her up” by saying “Alexa.” And her light comes on and you ask her a question and she answers you. Alexa can also operate electronic stuff like your lights, TV and security system. It’s very cool, very Jetsons-like.
Well, we have an Alexa on our end table in our living room. Of course, the first few days, we had to mess with her.
Us: Alexa, please cough.
Us: Alexa, please bark.
Alexa: Woof woof.
Us: Alexa, please make a throw-up sound.
There were other things we asked of her, but they do not bear repeating. And I’d also like to add that my husband George thinks Alexa is hard of hearing because whenever he addresses her, he shouts “Alexa!” Unless he forgets her name and shouts “Alexis!,” in which case she doesn’t acknowledge him.
And I must have some kind of weird accent because 99 percent of the stuff I ask her, she does not understand or she gets it wrong. I’ll ask her to play “Radio Gaga” by Queen, and I’ll get Lady Gaga’s biography.
When we got over our initial Alexa immaturity, we basically forgot about her except to ask her to play music. So there she sits, on our end table poised to answer our mainly stupid questions.
When this report about the eavesdropping came out, I started to think of what Alexa would actually overhear in our house. Here’s what I came up with:
Me: Did you leave the bathroom light on?
George: Unless one of the dogs jumped up and turned it on, I guess it was me.
George: Did you leave the kitchen light on?
Me: Unless one of the dogs jumped up and turned it on, I guess it was me.
George: I’m tired.
Me: Why? Didn’t you sleep well?
George: Yeah, but I’m still tired.
Me: Well, that’s because you’re old.
George: Your mother is old.
George: What are you cooking for dinner?
Me: (laughing too hard to answer)
Me: Why is the TV so loud?
Me: Why is the TV so loud!
George: I can’t hear you. The TV is loud.
George: I saw Whatchamacallit today.
George: That guy. You know. Average height. Graying hair, glasses.
Me: You’re describing yourself. Did you pass a mirror?
George (commenting on my outfit): That’s nice. Is it new?
Me (fibbing): No, it’s not new. I’ve had it awhile.
George: I’ve never seen that outfit on you.
Me (while surreptitiously ripping off the price tag): You just haven’t been paying attention.
Me (lugging in bags from the craft store): I had a 50 percent off coupon.
George: Sure you did.
Me: Ok, maybe it was 40 percent off.
George: Or maybe it was zero percent off and you have a craft store problem.
Me: Or that.
George (holding up a smoking stove burner cover): Is this what’s for dinner tonight?
Me: Oops. Turned the wrong knob again.
Or, if our kids are over,
Georgie: Did you see the last episode of Game of Thrones?
Donnie: No. That series is fake.
Me: I saw it.
George: I didn’t.
Michelle (Donnie’s fiancée): I didn’t.
Georgie: You do realize that all TV series are fake, right?
Donnie: Dragons, dude? Come on. Stop.
Me: I want dragons. You can ride them.
After several months of listening in to the conversations in my house, I’m thinking that Alexa not only turned off the “eavesdropping” feature but that she is huddled up somewhere with her hands over her ears.