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IT giants renew commitment to privacy and security amid concerns


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The Google Assistant booth is set up at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Sunday ahead of the 2020 CES electronics trade show. | AFP-JIJI

Information technology giants such as Google LLC and Amazon.com Inc. are striving to reassure consumers of their commitment to privacy and security, emphasizing related features while rolling out new products at the CES electronics trade show in Las Vegas.

Google announced Tuesday that it had added two new voice actions to help consumers better control the privacy settings on its voice assistants. If users say, “Hey Google, that wasn’t for you,” Google Assistant will forget the unintended activation. Users can also alter their privacy preferences by simply asking, “Hey Google, are you saving my audio data?”


Ring Inc., an Amazon unit specializing in home security devices, revealed Monday an update to its mobile app called Control Center that allows users to view and change their privacy and security settings. The privacy dashboard will be available later this month.

Jamie Siminoff, Ring founder and chief inventor, said in a press release: “Ring enters 2020 with a robust lineup of security devices, and we will continue to focus on innovating new products while enhancing our customers’ experiences especially around privacy and user control.”

Also Monday, Facebook Inc. announced its updated Privacy Checkup tool that guides users through their privacy settings. This follows in the wake of a series of data leakage scandals in recent years.

It covers four distinct topics that allow users to control what information other users see on the social media platform. The tool has been expanded from its original 2014 version and will be available globally this week.

In a rare appearance at CES, Jane Horvath, a senior director of global privacy at Apple Inc., participated in a roundtable discussion on consumer privacy with Facebook’s chief privacy officer for policy Erin Egan.

The roundtable was also joined by Rebecca Slaughter, commissioner at the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

“The amount of information that you have to process to figure out what is happening with your data is untenable for most people,” Slaughter said.

Facebook and Apple executives both reiterated their commitment to data privacy in response.

Egan said that both Facebook and Apple are keen to protect privacy. “It’s a different service we offer, but that doesn’t mean that one is more privacy protected than the other.”


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