Apple Homepod Mini
“Full-range driver and dual passive radiators!” No idea what that means but Apple makes that sounds like the coolest thing ever in these little round, colorful globes of a smart speaker. The Homepod Mini comes in five colors with four built in smart microphones to listen for all those, "Hey Siri" requests. Apple promises anything you say after "Hey Siri" is encrypted and associated to a random identifier on Apple's servers though, so hopefully your voice requests are safe. And iPhone owners, you're in luck! Apple says personalized listening suggestions will appear magically on your iPhone when you hold it next to your Homepod without having to unlock your phone. There goes the privacy of your playlist.
What could happen if something goes wrong?
Apple does a pretty good job with privacy and security as a company. Although they did recently suffer a bad security vulnerability that resulted in spyware that could allow bad actors to record calls and messages and even turn the device camera and microphone on without the user knowing. Apple did patch the security vulnerability. This is a good reminder that even the best companies can be vulnerable to high level hacking.
They say they don't share or sell your data and Apple takes special care to make sure your Siri requests aren't associated with you, which is great. Apple did face backlash in 2019 when it came to light their contractors were regularly listening in on confidential personal conversations when they were reviewing the voice assistant's recordings. Apple changed their policy so users weren't automatically opted-in to human voice review. Recently, Apple made another positive change for your Siri voice requests -- many audio requests for things like setting timers or alarms or controlling music will no longer be sent over the internet to their servers, instead processing them directly on the Homepod. This is better for your privacy.
However, it's always good to remember if you buy this product you're bringing four microphones that are always listening into your home. Here's hoping Apple doesn't let more strangers listen in to all you say! We're sure glad to see the steps they are taking to make sure that doesn't happen.
Tips to protect yourself
- Check out Apple Homepod privacy controls.
- You can say “Hey Siri, stop listening” to turn off speech recognition for a period of time.
- You can turn off location services on your Homepod, too.
- Before you give HomePod to someone else, you should remove it from the Home app.
What can be used to sign up?
What data does the company collect?
Name, email, phone number, address
How does the company use this data?
How can you control your data?
What is the company’s known track record of protecting users’ data?
Apple had a recent serious security vulnerability. From Firewall Times: "In September 2021, researchers discovered that a spyware called Pegasus had infected iPhones and other Apple Devices via a ‘zero click exploit’, granting the spyware broad power over a users’ device. Once infected, the spyware could record calls and messages and even turn the device camera and microphone on without the user knowing. Pegasus was produced by the NSO Group, an Israel-based company that sells its spyware to governments such as Mexico and Saudi Arabia. Though this spyware would presumably be used to surveil terrorists and criminal enterprises, these governments have also used it to spy on activists, politicians, and journalists. As of September 13, 2021, Apple has patched the exploit."
Can this product be used offline?
WiFi is needed to set it up.
User-friendly privacy information?
Links to privacy information
Does this product meet our Minimum Security Standards?
Uses encryption in transit and at rest.
Apple has a bug bounty program.
Some of Apple's AI research can be found at https://machinelearning.apple.com/.
Is this AI untrustworthy?
What kind of decisions does the AI make about you or for you?
Is the company transparent about how the AI works?
Does the user have control over the AI features?
Got a comment? Let us hear it.