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What’s That You’re Saying?

Consumers are conflicted over their digital assistants.

Amid the preponderance of virtual digital assistants, or at least their cellphone and smart-speaker manifestations, cyber-security expert McAfee figured it was high time to hear what consumers had to say about their voice-controlled companions.

The software developer commissioned OnePoll to ask 1,000 Americans about their relationships with the disembodied voices with names like Alexa, Siri and Google. The results, reflecting humankind’s inconsistencies in general, showed sharp contradictions in their attitudes toward the technology.

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The vast majority of respondents (nearly 60 percent), said the thought has occurred to them that their digital assistants could be recording or listening in to their conversations.

But at the same time, the research also showed that some consumers are already developing personal relationships with their pals in the Cloud. Specifically, more than a quarter of those surveyed (26 percent) admitted to asking their digital assistants questions they wouldn’t want anyone to know, while fully 50 percent said they would be embarrassed if their friends and family knew some of the questions they asked the A.I. programs.

Among the common queries made by almost 30 percent of consumers: “When will I die?” “How pretty am I?” and “Does [fill in the name of a current crush] like me?”

McAfee’s advice: Cyber confessionals aside, the company recommends taking such security steps as varied passwords, VPNs and robust routers, given the growing amount of personal and private information flowing to and from connected things in consumers’ homes.

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