Coronavirus: Employees urged to turn off Alexa-style devices while working from home due to privacy fears

Rob Waugh
·3 min read
Side view of young businessman using computer while sitting at desk in home office
Workers at one top law firm have been advised to stop using Alexa devices. (Getty)

Workers at a top law firm have been urged to turn off devices such as Amazon Echo and Google Home speakers over fears of the gadgets “listening in”.

British law firm Mischcon de Reya has issued advice to staff to mute or turn off devices such as Echo speakers.

Experts at the firm suggested that the devices could be a problem if people are talking on the phone about private client matters, should the devices be compromised.

Other recording devices such as Ring video doorbells could also pose a problem, the advice said.

The advice said employees should not have the devices near their work space at all, Bloomberg reported.

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Mishcon de Reya partner Joe Hancock, who heads the company’s cybersecurity team, told Bloomberg: “Perhaps we’re being slightly paranoid but we need to have a lot of trust in these organisations and these devices.

“We’d rather not take those risks.”

Close-up of Ring doorbell, equipped with a camera and machine learning capabilities, installed outside a home in the Marina Del Rey neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, October 21, 2018. (Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)
Devices such as Ring doorbells are among those Mischcon de Reya has warned against using while working. (Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)

The UK could spend an extra £52m a week on household energy bills as employees start working from home in response to the coronavirus pandemic, research has found.

People working from home will use 25% more electricity and 17% more gas per day than households where people are out at work all day, according to a study by comparison and switching service

This adds up to an estimated increase of up to £195 a year per household, or £16 more per month, for customers on the most expensive tariffs.

Read more: Teens arrested for ‘coughing on elderly couple’

Last week, tech companies including Google, Facebook and Microsoft joined forces to release an unprecedented statement on coronavirus in the battle against online misinformation.

The statement promised that the tech giants were working together, “jointly combating fraud and misinformation about the virus”.

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The statement was released online, and was signed by Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Reddit, Twitter and YouTube.

The joint statement said: “We are working closely together on COVID-19 response efforts. We’re helping millions of people stay connected while also, elevating authoritative content on our platforms, and sharing critical updates in coordination with government healthcare agencies around the world.

“We invite other companies to join us as we work to keep our communities healthy and safe.”

Facebook said last week that it plans to award $100m (£83m) in cash grants and ad credits for up to 30,000 small businesses in over 30 countries to address the economic impact of the outbreak.

Read more: British volunteers to be infected with coronavirus

Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg said: “We’ve listened to small businesses to understand how we can best help them.

“We’ve heard loud and clear that financial support could enable them to keep the lights on and pay people who can’t come to work.”

Facebook said companies will be able use cash to pay rent, cover operational costs or run advertising on the platform.