There’s something kind of magical about saying “Alexa” or “OK Google” to get a weather forecast, recipe, navigation directions, or to play music or control your smart home appliances.
There’s also something a little creepy about it since you need to have an always-listening, internet-connected speaker in your house to do those things.
Sure, Google and Amazon say they only send your data over the internet after a keyword has been collected. But there’ve been a few too many instances of data being shared with unauthorized users for my comfort.
That’s what makes Project Alias so intriguing: it’s a DIY hack that prevents Amazon Echo and Google Home devices from listening into your conversations when they shouldn’t be.
Here’s Project Alias in a nutshell: put a Raspberry Pi, a stereo speaker, and a mic array on top of a smart speaker and cover it with a 3D printed shell.
Project Alias software will then play a continuous stream of sound at your smart speaker to keep it from listening to your conversations. Say Alexa or OK Google as much as you like, and nothing will happen.
Instead you can set up a new hotword… or alias. Want your smart speaker to respond to “Inigo Montoya?” Just fire up an app on your phone, train it to recognize that phrase, and you’re good to go. Now whenever you say it, Alias will recognize the keyword, turn off the junk noise temporarily, and whisper “Alexa” or “OK Google” to your speaker so that it’ll listen to whatever you say next.
In other words, if you don’t trust Google or Amazon not to spy on you (intentionally or unintentionally), Project Alias gives you an extra layer of security. It also lets you set a custom hotword, which is a nice bonus feature.
What it won’t do is protect your voice data once it is sent to the cloud. Amazon and Google will still be able to save (and maybe mishandle) any conversations you intentionally have with your speaker. You’ll just have a little more control over the decision of what you’re willing to share.
via Fast Company