Amazon announced on Wednesday that it’s getting into the world of smart glasses. The Echo Frames, as they’re called, enable wearers to bring Alexa with them as they go about their day. Soon you might find yourself saying in public, “Alexa, who won the Battle of 1812?”
The frames cost $180, and they look great, but many are reportedly concerned with the privacy implications they create. These glasses, you see, have four microphones to listen listen to your requests.
It was revealed in April that Amazon employs thousands of people to listen to conversations Alexa is picking up to help improve the software’s accuracy. Amazon has also admitted it keeps its voice recordings indefinitely.
Thinking about these new glasses, it’s understandable that you might be uncomfortable with the idea that there’s a chance someone is listening to you everywhere you go and keeping what you say on file.
That being said, Amazon is not ignorant to the fact people are going to be worried about how this product might be thought of as a privacy violation. On the product page for Amazon’s new glasses, the company says Echo Frames are “designed to protect your privacy.”
“You can turn the microphones off by double-pressing the action button any time,” the description reads. “When the mics are off the light indicator will turn red and your Echo Frames will no longer be able to detect the wake word (‘Alexa’).”
Luckily, the glasses don’t feature any cameras, so you can also feel confident they won’t be snapping photos or videos of what you’re doing.
Though you can turn off the microphones, one has to wonder if your privacy is being protected when you forget to turn them off. I know when I’m running around I don’t really want to have to double-check that I’m not being recorded all of the time.
Big Brother Watch director Silkie Carlo told Business Insider that he thinks these glasses are a step too far when it comes to possible privacy violations.
“Amazon has a terrible record on privacy and is releasing endless ‘smart’ gadgets that constantly surveil their owners’ private lives,” Carlo said. “Pitching these devices for people’s homes is one thing, but encouraging people to wear listening devices all day is a step further.”
In a statement to Inverse, an Amazon spokesperson said the Echo Frames are “designed to only detect the wake word” and that the microphones are “designed to respond to the voice of the person wearing the frames.”
The glasses are well-designed, and I can understand why you’d want the convenience of being able to make a call or get directions by just asking Alexa to do that for you wherever you go, but it is certainly fair to question if these glasses will not only adequately protect your privacy but also the privacy of those around you.
It’s one thing to decide that you don’t care if Amazon is recording what you’re saying, but it’s an entirely different thing to decide that it’s okay that Amazon might be recording everyone you interact with over the course of the day.