Smart speakers such as those made by Amazon.com Inc are to come under new scrutiny by the UK government when it publishes the results of a consultation into the security features of connected consumer devices.
UK digital secretary Nicky Morgan said the results of the public inquiry, which concluded in June, will be released within the next “month or so” and
contain proposals for mandatory industry requirements
that could lead to potential new regulation.
“We need to go out and ask what requirements are needed when you’re launching and operating these kinds of products so that people are safe,” she said in an interview with Bloomberg. “What more do the companies need to build in for security?”
The publication will be broad and cover a wide range of
so-called Internet of Things technologies, but comes as regulators and lawmakers in the US and Europe examine whether Google, Apple Inc and Amazon violated privacy by employing human reviewers to listen to voice commands recorded by digital assistants.
Bloomberg first reported in April that Amazon had a team of thousands of workers around the world listening to Alexa audio requests with the goal of improving the software.
“We want to be pro-innovation and pro-tech, and encourage people to innovate,” Morgan said, “but recognise that we need to strike a balance, and help the public buying these devices to be aware of some of the concerns people have.”
She said there was “massive potential” for connected devices in areas from healthcare to just turning lights on and off, but that the government has “an important role to play” in helping the public make sense of security questions being brought up.
Connected home devices surged in popularity last year and led to the inclusion of smart speakers in the virtual basket of products used by the Office for National Statistics to calculate UK inflation. Consulting firm Juniper Research Ltd estimates that by 2023 the global annual market for smart speakers will reach $11 billion, and there will be about 7.4 billion voice-controlled devices.
Still, the rise in use of connected devices, combined with the advent of super-fast 5G mobile networks, has sparked concerns among cybersecurity experts who worry bad actors will have even more options to hack into or target devices.
Amazon faces a lawsuit brought by a man who claims someone took control of a Ring video camera installed on his garage and spoke to his children, one among a set of similar incidents.
Venture capital firms invested 9.2 billion pounds ($12 billion) in the UK last year, up 22% from a year earlier, according to a report from consultancy KPMG and PitchBook released.