More than Smart Speakers: Security and Privacy Perceptions of Smart Home Personal Assistants

Noura Abdi, Kopo M Ramokapane, Jose Such

Research output: Contribution to conference typesPaperpeer-review

137 Citations (Scopus)
205 Downloads (Pure)


Smart Home Personal Assistants (SPA) such as Amazon Echo/Alexa and Google Home/Assistant have made our daily routines much more convenient, allowing us to complete tasks quickly and efficiently using natural language. It is believed that around 10\% of consumers around the world already own an SPA, and predictions are that ownership will keep rising. It is therefore paramount to make SPA secure and privacy-preserving. Despite the growing research on SPA security and privacy, little is known about users' security and privacy perceptions concerning SPA complex ecosystem, which involves several elements and stakeholders. To explore this, we considered the main four use case scenarios with distinctive architectural elements and stakeholders involved: using built-in skills, third-party skills, managing other smart devices, and shopping, through semi-structured interviews with SPA users. Using a grounded theory approach, we found that users have incomplete mental models of SPA, leading to different perceptions of where data is being stored, processed, and shared. Users' understanding of the SPA ecosystem is often limited to their household and the SPA vendor at most, even when using third-party skills or managing other smart home devices. This leads to incomplete threat models (few threat agents and types of attacks) and non-technical coping strategies they implement to protect themselves. We also found that users are not making the most of the shopping capabilities of SPA due to security and privacy concerns; and while users perceive SPA as intelligent and capable of learning, they would not like SPA learning everything about them. Based on these findings, we discuss design recommendations.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 12 Aug 2019


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