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Voice Assistant Recordings Could Reveal What Someone Nearby Is Typing

By New Scientist

December 4, 2020

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A machine learning system creaeted by researchers at the U.K.'s University of Cambridge can be used with voice assistants to detect typing on touchscreens nearby, using artificial intelligence (AI) tools to determine what is being typed.

Cambridge's Ilia Shumailov and colleagues had volunteers type random five-digit personal identification numbers or English words on a touchscreen device, while recording audio with a microphone on a separate device nearby.

The AI's accuracy at first guess was 28% to 47% when the typist was 20 centimeters away from the recorder, but it rose to between 60% and 76% by the third guess.

Accuracy declined as the person typing moved further away from the recording device.

Imperial College London's Hamed Haddadi said, "The implications reconfirm that having always-on cameras and microphones in our home will eventually come with privacy and security risks."

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