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Congressmen Worried About Amazon Silk Privacy Issues 148

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-that-they-know-what-those-issues-are dept.
suraj.sun sends this quote from an article at Ars: "Congress is trying to wrap its collective head around Amazon's new Silk Web browser. At a privacy hearing yesterday, Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) expressed outrage at the way Silk's 'split' design can funnel all user browsing data through Amazon's backend servers. 'My staff yesterday told me that one of our leading Internet companies, Amazon, is going to create their own server and their own system and they're going to force everybody that uses Amazon to go through their server and they're going to collect all this information on each person who does that without that person's knowledge. Enough is enough.' Today came a similar shot from the other side of the aisle, with Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) dashing off a letter (PDF) to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos about the same privacy concerns. 'Consumers may buy the new Kindle Fire to read 1984, but they may not realize that the tablet's "Big Browser" may be watching their every keystroke when they are online,' Markey said in a statement."
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Congressmen Worried About Amazon Silk Privacy Issues

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  • by AngryDeuce (2205124) on Saturday October 15, 2011 @11:53AM (#37724510)
    ...then where is all the outrage over Facebook tracking you even when you're not signed in to Facebook? [bitterwallet.com] Why now, in other words, and why Amazon? How do they compare to what Facebook, Google, Apple, and others already do now?
    • by Zancarius (414244)

      ...then where is all the outrage over Facebook tracking you even when you're not signed in to Facebook? Why now, in other words, and why Amazon? How do they compare to what Facebook, Google, Apple, and others already do now?

      Amazon mustn't have bought them off.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by AngryDeuce (2205124)
        I have a sneaking suspicion that this has a lot less to do with privacy, and a lot more to do with the sales tax fight. Guess they'd better add a few more zeros to their "lobbying" budget. Either that or they're not honoring the unwritten "matching donations" rule that requires Big Business to pay off both parties equally.
        • This, Tax issue, And perhaps the data Amazon is collecting is not being shared with the government.

          Concern about companies that don't collude with government to track and streamline targeted life oppression upon the public, groups or individuals.

      • by HogGeek (456673)

        Amazon mustn't have bought them off, yet

        FTFY

    • And why is it a congressional issue? I think those lazy bastards have some other more pressing issues to look into... like how to get America working again.
      • by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Saturday October 15, 2011 @12:52PM (#37724840) Homepage Journal

        Uhhhh - yeah, I think they have bigger fish to fry in congress. But, this really is a congressional issue. Privacy has been encroached on for a couple of decades now. Especially with the un-Patriot act, and all the storms in teacups with the "terrorists". Yes, it's time for congress to address the issue of privacy for private citizens. Facebook, Amazon, nor any other corporation should be collecting information on citizens of the United States. (note the use of the word "citizen", rather than "consumer")

        • by jdavidb (449077)

          Especially with the un-Patriot act, and all the storms in teacups with the "terrorists". Yes, it's time for congress to address the issue of privacy for private citizens

          I'm confused. Because Congress has rampantly violated privacy, this gives them justification to go try to "protect" our privacy from others? Or do you feel that Congress' egregious violation of privacy rights makes them qualified as experts in the issue? I don't understand; I'm getting a complete non sequitur here. From where I sit, Congress doesn't know anything about privacy and shouldn't be trusted in the slightest with power to specify standards for privacy in other situations. This is a little bit

          • by bryan1945 (301828)

            Oh, Congress is definitely the expert in violations. They're just mad that others are trying to muscle in on their turf without paying the tithe.

        • Uhhhh - yeah, I think they have bigger fish to fry in congress. But, this really is a congressional issue. Privacy has been encroached on for a couple of decades now.

          Um, no, this ISNT a congressional issue. I fail to recall a constitutional right to privacy, nor any place where it gives congress the power to mandate business privacy powers.

          Really, this is a market issue-- and I dont say that because Im a wacky libertarian who thinks any and all legislation is evil, I say it because legislation is almost always the worst way to accomplish a goal-- especially when that goal can be achieved simply by voting with your wallets.

          Look, this isnt hard. Kindle1 had no web brows

        • by tehcyder (746570)

          and all the storms in teacups with the "terrorists"

          I don't remember anyone describing it like that in the US after 9/11 and during the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts that have wasted billlions of dollars and tens of thousands of lives.

      • by hedwards (940851)

        They do, however the GOP has decided that it's not going to participate in fixing that particular problem, and is not interested in allowing the Democrats to even try, so this is at least something.

      • by mark_elf (2009518)
        I think corporate oversight is an urgent issue that they should do something about. Lawmakers don't seem lazy to me, only frozen by obstructionism, generated in large part by corporate interests that love a weak, divisive and gridlocked congress. Then they can do whatever they want to destroy our freedoms, without government interference. Do you realize they even pay people to sit around and post anti government talking points on message boards? It's gotten so out of hand. At least people are finally waking
    • While we're at it, where is the outrage over everything you type in the Firefox address bar being sent to Google by default?
      • by oakgrove (845019)
        That can be changed fairly easily. I'm thinking this Silk Browser on the Kindle Fire not so much.
        • by oakgrove (845019)
          I stand corrected [pcmag.com]!
    • by jjp9999 (2180664)
      True. The first thing I thought of when I read this was Verizon's recent announcement they'll be watching all user Web activity; learn what they like, whether they own pets, whether they like sports; and even track their locations.
    • I really don't get this sudden surge of amazement regarding Facebook's tracking.

      Anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of http knows that for every request, your browser automatically sends cookie data. And that when you request an image, your request gets logged against the server that hosts that image.

      Hell, doubleclick was doing the same thing a decade ago, and you didn't even have to sign up for them to track you.

      It's also not like the user isn't given a choice - I remember when browser's used to ask you to

  • The whole personal information collection bubble would just pop already, how much useless data can they collect to try and target ad's you block or ignore anyway?

    • by planimal (2454610)
      i don't think it has even begun. in 10 years we'll see personalized ads within the walls of commercial facilities.
      • by Surt (22457)

        In 20 years (at the latest) vending machines will be able to use magnetic fields to induce advertisements directly into your brain.

        • by Tsingi (870990)
          I have no link, it may have been SlashDot. I read an article with video about a year ago that involved directional audio that did just that. You could be standing in a crowd and be the only one that heard something, sounding like it was in your head.

          They were testing it out in public, and it WAS freaking people out.

          The context was advertising.

          • A story [cnet.com](CNET; but enough company names to fire up google).

            The technology is actually damn clever, ultrasonic emitter with carefully tuned wave interaction creating audible sounds only at a specific point, total sci-fi stuff; but using it to beam ghostly whispers into pedestrian's heads was pretty tactless of them.
            • by Tsingi (870990)

              Thanks for providing the link.

              A more innocuous use of the technology. You could see how it could be used for evil purposes. In fact, I don't think it could be used subversively in any fashion that could be described as anything other than evil.

              If this happened to me, a person who does not watch TV because I HATE commercials and the psychological effect they intend to have on me. I'd be flipping out.

      • by adrn01 (103810)

        i don't think it has even begun. in 10 years we'll see personalized ads within the walls of commercial facilities.

        In 11 years men's room stalls will have vending machines that offer to sell you condoms that fit you EXACTLY.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Someone should explain facebook and "like" buttons to this guy.

    "Wait, you mean every porn video or news story or picture of a puppy that I look at is logged and connected to my real name?"

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Opera's Turbo mode does the same thing, Opera's servers handle the request and compress and re-send the images, and probably some other tricks too, I never heard anyone get worried about that. What about all the supposed anonymizing web proxies that will gladly hand records over to the government? Silk doesn't seem quite as bad by comparison, or so new. The difference here I guess is Amazon has a financial incentive to record and index some of that data for advertising and metrics.

    • by peragrin (659227)

      The difference is Amazon is a known retailer who uses lots of advertising, and is well known for collecting information for advertisers.

      Opera hasn't been caught doing that yet. (it is a revenue stream they are missing)

      • by mysidia (191772) *

        Google uses lots of advertising too. Remember Microsoft's video [youtube.com] showing how Chrome leaks every keystroke in the URL address bar?

    • by Teun (17872)
      But Opera is based in Norway, a country that has strong ties to the EU and therefore no doubt has strict consumer protection and privacy laws.
  • turn it off (Score:5, Informative)

    by XaXXon (202882) <xaxxon@gmaiCHEETAHl.com minus cat> on Saturday October 15, 2011 @11:56AM (#37724538) Homepage

    seriously.. just turn it off

    In an email, an Amazon spokesperson said "users can completely turn off the split-browsing mode and use Amazon Silk like a conventional Web browser."

    http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2394732,00.asp#fbid=GbO7By1YITI [pcmag.com]

    • by Osgeld (1900440)

      I fucking hate opt out, I should not have to nag every damned website I visit to not spam me cause they think they are somehow providing me a service.

      • Re:turn it off (Score:5, Insightful)

        by AngryDeuce (2205124) on Saturday October 15, 2011 @12:08PM (#37724604)
        Plus all the plugins you need to have installed to make sure they won't just track you anyway. I wouldn't mind so much if it was a permanent, once and for all opt-out, but it seems like more and more businesses just update something every few months and turn the shit right back on again, since the default for everything anymore is "PRIVACY IS ANTI-AMERICAN, WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO HIDE?"
    • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

      by Sponge Bath (413667)
      Do you expect rationality from Joe "You Lie!" Barton. He is a goon, and this attack against Amazon likely has a political back story.
      • Given that he voted "yea" on H.R. 5304, the delightful FISA retroactive-immunity-for-any-illegal-spying-the-telcos-certainly-didn't-engage-in-but-if-they-did-it-is-now-legal act, I have a few proctological suggestions about where he can shove is alleged concern for internet privacy...

        Let's be clear here, this 'silk' is, indeed, an almost cartoonishly invasive technology, enabled b default, on what is likely to be a very popular consumer device(yes, Opera mini/opera turbo, and various dialup "accelerator"
        • by Jay L (74152)

          This is good news. I was worried about Silk's privacy implications, but if Joe Barton is worried too, Silk must be freaking unicorns.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        Do you expect rationality from Joe "You Lie!" Barton.

        Except that it was a lie.

        Maybe you should try a different example next time.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        Except it was Joe Wilson, not Joe Barton.

      • by dlb (17444)

        You are thinking of Joe "You Lie!" Wilson.

        Joe Barton was the one who apologized to Tony Hayward of BP for having to, god forbid, create an escrow fund to compensate Gulf oil spill victims.

        Either way, they're both fools.

    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      seriously.. just turn it off

      Look... it's a well established fact that people are lazy.
      When companies make something opt-out, they do it because they know that most users will not.
      And vice versa, when good things are an opt-in, we know that most people won't opt-in to it.

      Good public policy is to make 'bad' ideas an opt-in, because we know most people won't opt-in to it.

    • by esocid (946821)
      Or buy another kindle. Or any other e-reader. I fail to see that this is an issue, when they tell consumers they can use Amazon's pre-caching, or not use it. I think I agree with another comment about the sales tax fight. Someone's making a stink about nothing for some leverage later.
    • Why not approach it like the EU, and require Amazon to provide users with a simple choice screen when they first use the new Kindle? "Welcome to Amazon Silk! Would you like to speed your browsing by sending all of your requests through our servers, or would you prefer to use Silk in a conventional manner?". Opt-Out tends to leave non technical users in the dust. That said, Amazon is starting to lack credibility when it comes to privacy issues. Their actions regarding 1984 + Kindle left a dark stain on
    • by Stan92057 (737634)
      Why should consumers have to guess or even look for setting to not be spied upon?? Advertise the fact that they can do this if we allow them to spy. Its called advertising, making a product people want.
    • Anyone else think it's weird that Amazon chose the name silk for this? Does anyone remember the old black hat term "silk rope"?
  • Its not that Congress is truly outraged about Amazon invading privacy. They're outraged they have competition in privacy invasion.

    • by jc42 (318812)

      Its not that Congress is truly outraged about Amazon invading privacy. They're outraged they have competition in privacy invasion.

      More likely, they're upset that Amazon's response to Congress's demand for a copy of the information was to send them the price list for various classes of information. Congress wants to get that information for free (like they do now from google); they don't want to be treated like an ordinary corporate customer who pays for information about you.

  • Amazon's "Big Browser" shows that even non-slashdotters can come up with a catchy new meme every now and then.
  • Uh huh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) on Saturday October 15, 2011 @12:07PM (#37724598)

    'My staff yesterday told me that one of our leading Internet companies, Amazon, is going to create their own server and their own system and they're going to force everybody that uses Amazon to go through their server and they're going to collect all this information on each person who does that without that person's knowledge. Enough is enough.'

    Translation for those who don't speak Congress-critter or those who live in other countries:
    "One of Amazon's competitors has decided to donate to my re-election campaign. A study group our pollster ran shows that we might get some TV time bitching about 'privacy concerns' hahahaha."

  • I mean, who'd want to wear them anyway? Wouldn't they be cold?

    What's that? Oh, never mind.
  • Err, Chrome collects data. Opera Mini and Skyfire run you through their servers. etc etc How come none of those companies are out in front of Congress getting reamed?
    • Just what I was thinking... It's not as though this hasn't been done before, though, isn't this the exact sort of approach that RIM introduced with their first BlackBerries?

      The other issue that I have is, ok, so Amazon is collecting data on you, so who really cares? It's not as though someone is sitting there reading it, all it's used for is so that scripts can target adverts at you. Big whooping deal. I don't see how this is a threat to my privacy or anything. If anything, I prefer having better advert

      • by cpghost (719344)

        don't see how this is a threat to my privacy or anything

        Never underestimate the danger of corporate data mining.

        Want an example how this can be abused? Alright. Suppose someone with a minor disease visits websites or forums talking about that. Fast forward a few years. Said person seeks health insurance, but can't get any, because the insurance companies will have access to that person's surfing habit, and will flag this person as undesirable customer. So no coverage, right?

        This is just one of many, m

        • Want an example how this can be abused? Alright. Suppose someone with a minor disease visits websites or forums talking about that. Fast forward a few years. Said person seeks health insurance, but can't get any, because the insurance companies will have access to that person's surfing habit, and will flag this person as undesirable customer. So no coverage, right?

          Well, I'm a doctor, I look up major and minor diseases all the time. I'm going to be in BIG trouble, right?

          I don't think it will be that obvious, nor that intrusive. I'm not in favor of everyone on the planet logging every keystroke I send into the Internet but I believe the ramifications are going to be more annoying than dangerous. The government can barely keep up with the information I send them (I'm looking at YOU, IRS). The credit databases like Experian are so full of incorrect data that it's lau

        • by Jeremi (14640)

          Said person seeks health insurance, but can't get any, because the insurance companies will have access to that person's surfing habit, and will flag this person as undesirable customer. So no coverage, right?

          Not right... because starting in 2014 health insurance companies will be forced to offer coverage to everyone. That's the flip side of forcing everyone to have health insurance (the individual mandate).

    • I don't know why *none* of these are getting reamed, but Chrome? It collects data and stores it *on your local machine.* It doesn't route every request through Google.

  • by wealthychef (584778) on Saturday October 15, 2011 @12:14PM (#37724644)
    If Congress is concerned about privacy, maybe they should stop warrantless wiretapping and war by executive fiat. Just a thought.
  • by tverbeek (457094)
    I'm showing my partisan bias here, but I think it's telling the Republican gave us the not-quite-calling-it-tubes comment that "they're going to force everybody that uses Amazon to go through their server", and the Democrat gave us the literary word-play of "Big Browser".
  • by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Saturday October 15, 2011 @12:31PM (#37724726)

    My staff yesterday told me that one of our leading Internet companies, ...

    First. Why is his penis talking to him?

    ... Amazon, is going to create their own server and their own system...

    Um, like amazon.com?

    ...and they're going to force everybody that uses Amazon to go through their server...

    Um, like amazon.com?

    ...and they're going to collect all this information on each person who does that...

    Um, like amazon.com?

    ...without that person's knowledge.

    Um, I'm sure there will be a lengthy and detailed privacy notice/disclaimer telling us all the things they're going to track and collect, like amazon.com.

    • by Chewbacon (797801)
      People read that? I only read the Apple store agreement after that South Park episode. And, no, I don't have my mouth sewn to someone's ass yet... and I'm not gonna!
  • Since when is Jon "Bowzer" Bauman [pitch.com] a national threat? Perhaps the low note on Blue Moon [youtube.com] rattles the Senator's fillings?
  • Aren't Opera and Bolt mobile browsers routing their web traffic through their respective proxy servers anyway and potentially logging everything one browses to?

  • 'Consumers may buy the new Kindle Fire to read 1984, but they may not realize that the tablet's "Big Browser" may be watching their every keystroke when they are online,' Markey said in a statement."

    Having data isn't enough to qualify as "big brother". Recording massive amounts of data on minute details of your life isn't what made the book big brother scary. It's what they did with that knowledge.

    Fact is we're moving into an age where we will be recording more and more data on everyone. It's more important

    • by peragrin (659227)

      The trick with laws unless it is explicitly outlawed it is legal, and therefore fair game.

      Do not ask what the law was meant to achieve but how can it be abused by anyone else.

      Since there is no law against doing stuff with that knowledge it will be used against people.

  • by optimism (2183618) on Saturday October 15, 2011 @12:46PM (#37724802)

    Yes...Amazon, Facebook, Google, Apple, etc can log your keystrokes and behaviors through their servers and their widespread affiliates.

    But this is nothing compared to your ISP. Comcast, AT&T, Roadrunner, etc have access to EVERYTHING their customers do on their Internet connections (minus a fractional percentage of encrypted traffic, of course).

    Funny that most folks seem to ignore this elephant in the room.

    • by Chewbacon (797801)
      Yeah, it's kind of creepy when I've made a typo in my address bar and get a search page generated by Cox that's filled with ads clearly generated by my browsing.
    • Only if your ISP sucks. Mine lets me do whatever the hell I want with my space, and ignores threatening letters from lawyers. They even provide a proper reverse DNS. I have a network service provider, not an ISP. They simply pass all management concerns along to me.
      • by optimism (2183618)

        Only if your ISP sucks. Mine lets me do whatever the hell I want with my space

        Not sure what you mean by "my space". Your account on myspace.com?

        I was talking about your network traffic,. Which, for most folks, goes through a cable or phone line and various routers that do guarantee any privacy whatsoever. Unless your traffic is encrypted, which for most folks is not the case unless they are sending a password or credit card or bank account number. And even then, you can see from the logs that there was a certain amount of traffic from X to Y at time Z, even if you can't read it.

        Your

        • And I can put a vampire tap into my next-door neighbour's cable line and read all his stuff too. Being able to is not the same as doing. Here in Canada, at least, you still require a court order to start sniffing someone's network traffic. And my provider (no, I won't tell you who) doesn't bend over just for the asking. In all likelihood, if I were to be investigated for something, they could make the claim that I was the owner and the court order would come through me.
          • by optimism (2183618)

            ...still require a court order to start sniffing someone's network traffic without their consent, which they can can grant by simply accepting the terms of service.

            FTFY. Go read the fine print on your terms of service. Even better, post a link to the ToS for your wonderfully-private ISP.

            -----

            my provider (no, I won't tell you who)

            That's a very strange statement. Why can't you name your mythical power-to-the-people ISP?

            • Yeah take off the tinfoil hat already. No, they are not contractually obligated to, but they have shown in the past how they will deal with MAFIAA lawyers. They are trustworthy. I choose not to disclose my ISP because you are obviously trying to troll me into giving out more personal information than I normally would. Go play your teenaged games with someone less experienced.
              • by optimism (2183618)

                Lawyers coming after you is an entirely different scenario from personal data collection.

                Like I said, go read your ISP's ToS, or privacy policy, or whatever they call it.

                Chances are, your ISP logs whatever they want from your traffic. That information is proven valuable, and companies are in business to make money, so they will exploit it. Unless you personally know and trust the board & management of your ISP, you have absolutely no reason to trust the company.

                Go play your teenaged games with someone less experienced.

                From your replies, I'm fairly sure that I

  • by Beelzebud (1361137) on Saturday October 15, 2011 @12:51PM (#37724828)
    If they get all bipartisan and outraged about this, it's because they're both covering for the domestic spying that a real Big Brother system has been engaging in since the Patriot Act. Funny how they can compare Amazon to "Big Brother" from 1984, but our own NSA now spies on us, without any warrant whatsoever.

    Rake Amazon over the coals for gathering information that relates to advertising, but give AT&T a free pass for hosting NSA spy rooms in their facilities.
    • by nurb432 (527695)

      But the NSA does it for our own good.. while amazon does it for their own good ( at least until they pay off congress to get on their good side. )

    • by Chewbacon (797801)
      Perhaps the Federal Government needs a privacy agreement people will find difficult to refuse. Like when you sign your W-2 or 1040, you agree to surrender your privacy rights.
      • by optimism (2183618)

        I think you mean your W-2 form. You know, the form that all American wage-slaves sign, to tell their slave-master how much of their paycheck should automatically go to the government.

        Logically, I'm not sure why anyone would want to sign a privacy agreement that is attached to their agreement to pay money. IMHO they should pay you if they want your private information.

        But of course it doesn't work that way. All it takes is for the sheeple to remain ignorant. Witness the recent 4-year extension of the USA-PAT

    • How many children were killed by US bombs yesterday? And these guys have the temerity to express outrage over a web browser while that is going on?

      Congressmen: do your fucking job. It's described in the instruction manual [usconstitution.net].

  • We already know where Congress's collective head is, and it's not wrapped around any browser.
  • Congress should be worrying about it's criminal ignorance of the constitution and not micromanaging the entire economy...

  • "going to force everybody that uses Amazon to go through their server " ??? Once again, congress has no idea how computers work.

    #1 - Amazon isn't going to "force" everyone that uses Amazon. Silk is only available on a single device, the Kindle Fire (For now).

    #2 - According to Wikipedia [1] and several dozen news stories, you can turn off Silk.

    Granted, It is still a privacy concern, but lets at least get the facts remotely close first.

    [1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amazon_Silk [wikipedia.org]

    • by Stan92057 (737634)
      Do people know silk is on one machine? Do they even know what silk IS? and why should we have to even worry about it. When i buy a device i don't expect it to collect the data i make unless i am asked first. Whats with this BS opt-out? If your product is good enough and we get something in return like Discounts then maybe people wouldn't mind. I don't understand why businesses think its their god given right to spy on what we do so they can make more money from us.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    This is exactly how RIM handles data traffic on the BlackBerry...all your browsing, emails, PIM Sync, etc, goes through there server and no one seems upset by that.
    Also, the Opera Mobile browser does this to accelerate browsing and no one cares.

  • by nurb432 (527695)

    Does this too for the most part when you are attached to a BES server, and it's already 'government approved'.

    We really should ban non technical people from making laws that effect the technical world.

  • by Nebulious (1241096) on Saturday October 15, 2011 @02:45PM (#37725604)
    Let's not forget that Joe Barton is perhaps the dumbest and most openly corrupt person in congress today. Yes, that is saying a lot too. This is the man who thought he stumped Energy Secretary Stephen Chu with the question "Where does oil come from?" This is the guy who apologized to BP for Obama making them pay New Horizon reparations in the Gulf Coast. Joe Barton represents everything wrong with modern American politics and he does it with a holier-than-thou attitude.

    What I'm saying is if Joe Barton went on TV and said the sky was blue, I'd go out and see if it had changed to green.
  • It's about time Congress passed some privacy laws that detail what companies can and cannot do with people's data. Instead of privacy policies that companies don't honor, why not set some basics. It would avoid the Amazon issue, the recent OnStar fiasco, put some limits on Google and other Ad companies, etc. Most of the reactions on this article are about how stupid this is. Instead, consider that we usually complain about privacy and Congress has finally noticed albeit a very weak example.

    Some of the t

  • If only members of Congress showed as much concern about the illegal wiretapping and data snooping done by the FBI and NSA.

  • Hey Congress!

    Stop dicking around and balance the budget already!

  • by drinkypoo (153816)

    Why don't they get concerned about Siri at the same time? It's not only listening to what you say, but developing a voice print library that, when subjected to analysis, can produce a model probably sufficient to defeat voice analysis security systems.

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