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You’ve probably heard a lot of things — true and not true — about the ways that our digital devices are listening to every word we’re saying.

You talk to your friend about a cool new bar in town and suddenly the bar’s advertisements show up in your Facebook feed.

Or your Alexa starts talking to you out of nowhere… making you wonder just how long it’s been listening!

While most of these stories are probably just eerie coincidences, there is a growing body of evidence that the tech giants who make digital assistants like Siri and Alexa are not as diligent as we might like about keeping our utterances private. Apple, for example, was recently found to be sending some of what Siri hears us say to human listeners (for quality assurance reasons.)

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While I very much do not want to stoke unnecessary concerns about digital assistants, the PCT team has come to believe that it is probably wise to publish our collective opinion on how to treat these services in your therapy spaces. So with that, I give you:

Roy’s Rules On Digital Assistants

  1. Any device that waits for you to say an activation word stays out of the therapy room (and the waiting room, too, for that matter.) “Go home, Google Home!” “Alexa, look up directions for how you can go take a hike!”
  2. On your smartphone, personal assistant bots need to be set so they don’t work while the phone is locked. That should mean Siri, Bixby (that’s what the Android one is called), and Cortana should stay dormant until you unlock your phone/tablet. Does your phone not permit that setting? Or you can’t figure out how to make it work that way? Put your phone on airplane mode while in session. That should keep prying ears out.


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