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News Release

Common Sense/SurveyMonkey Poll Reveals Privacy Is a Top Concern for Families Who Use Smart Speakers and Voice-Activated Assistants

March 28, 2019 at 6:00 AM PDT

SAN FRANCISCO, March 28, 2019—Almost half of American families surveyed have a new roommate, and parents who have invited her in now worry she's listening—and taking notes. 

Whether it's Amazon's Echo or Google Home, Siri or Alexa, smart speakers and voice-activated assistants are now in our kitchens, bedrooms, and play areas and are creating new concerns about privacy. According to a survey released today from Common Sense and SurveyMonkey, more than four in 10 parents of children age 2 to 8 say their families use a smart speaker such as the Amazon Echo or Google Home, and nearly six in 10 say their young children interact with a voice-activated assistant such as Siri or Alexa. A clear, common undercurrent from the findings is concern: Almost all parents worry about the devices' privacy settings and what can happen to the data that is being collected. (For real-world reasons parents should care about privacy, see below.*)

This latest survey is part of a Common Sense partnership with SurveyMonkey to examine media and technology trends affecting kids and their parents and to share actionable data and insights for families. 

Key findings include:

  • Parents worry someone is listening. Over half of parents (58 percent) whose children use smart speakers think it's at least moderately likely that someone could hack their smart speakers and listen to their conversations. Four in 10 (40 percent) have turned off their smart speaker's microphone to prevent it from listening. 
     
  • Almost all parents surveyed value controlling and understanding what information is collected from their voice-activated devices. About nine in 10 parents (93 percent) who use voice-activated devices say it's important to them to know when their families' voices are being recorded, to control what information is collected about them (93 percent), and to control whether their family's voice data is being used to deliver more targeted ads (88 percent).
     
  • Some parents wish they could limit data collection by voice-activated assistants. A full third (33 percent) of parents whose children interact with voice-activated devices say they would like to take steps to limit the data collected by voice-activated assistants, but they don't know how. 
     
  • Most kids get that Siri isn't a human. Most parents report their children think voice-activated assistants are not human: They are identified primarily as robots (39 percent) or computer programs (26 percent).
     
  • Many kids talk to smart speakers daily, mostly to listen to music. Half of parents (50 percent) say their children interact with a smart speaker once a day or more, most often to play music (47 percent) but also to get information (12 percent), just to talk or fool around with (12 percent), or to get jokes (10 percent). 
     
  • Voice-activated assistants are helpful for some parents and many older kids. 
    • About three in 10 parents (29 percent) say voice-activated assistants are "extremely" or "very" helpful in accomplishing parenting tasks, such as making grocery lists, answering children's questions, or setting reminders.
    • More than four in 10 parents of 6- to 8-year-olds (43 percent) say their children use voice-activated assistants to help with homework.

"This report is a clarion call for tech companies and privacy regulators that as these devices are brought into the home, there's nearly unanimous concern about privacy," said James P. Steyer, founder and CEO of Common Sense. "After all, voice-activated devices collect and store untold amounts of data, and it's unclear what the companies do with the extraneous noise they pick up. Until privacy regulations are worked out, parents should turn off their home assistant's microphone when they're not using it and do regular privacy checks to maintain their comfort level with these devices."

"Our study pinpoints privacy as a major concern among consumers who use smart speakers, particularly among parents of young children," said Jon Cohen, chief research officer at SurveyMonkey. "As voice-activated assistants are incorporated more fully into family life, brands need to carefully balance these widespread privacy concerns with their relentless build-out of ever-more-advanced features that promise value, convenience, and plain-old fun." 

The full results of the survey can be viewed at Common Sense Media

About Common Sense

Common Sense is the nation's leading nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of kids and families by providing the trustworthy information, education, and independent voice they need to thrive in the 21st century. Learn more at commonsense.org.

About SurveyMonkey 

Founded in 1999, SurveyMonkey changed the way people gather feedback by making it easy for anyone to create their own online surveys. Our mission is to power curious individuals and organizations around the globe to measure, benchmark, and act on the opinions that drive success. Our People Powered Data platform enables organizations of any size to have conversations at scale to deliver impactful customer, employee, and market insights. Our more than 850 employees are dedicated to fueling the curiosity of over 17.5 million active users globally.

Contacts:
Tanya Schevitz, Common Sense                    
tschevitz@commonsense.org                       
(415) 298-5532

Irina Efremova, SurveyMonkey
irinae@surveymonkey.com    
(650) 681-3464                         


For more information, including specific privacy-protection tips, check out our Parent's Ultimate Guide to Smart Devices