Skip to main content

Antony Hare/Globe and Mail

Dear Corporate Governess,

Our boss recently bought Alexa for Business [Amazon’s digital assistant] to help in the office.

It’s helpful but creepy. How worried should I be?

Story continues below advertisement

— Jasmine R., Toronto

Dear Jasmine,

There’s a trade-off between whizz-bang technology that makes us more efficient and our right to privacy. “Retains voice inputs” is a fancy way of saying Alexa eavesdrops—and when she’s “awake,” she’s recording everything you say before sending it off to some cloud, far, far away. Listening is how she learns you like skinny lattes, as well as who your contacts are and where to reach them.

So it’s fair to question whether the boss is listening too, in the way that people with Alexa home devices can review their recordings. The good news, according to Amazon, is that with Alexa for Business, organizations can’t access any voice recordings or text transcripts of what a user has said. They also can’t see Alexa’s responses to users’ queries. But I’d ask HR to see a written policy on confidentiality. You can also turn off your microphone if you have a personal device and don’t want to play.

One warning for companies: Last year, researchers from China’s Zhejiang University tricked Alexa, Siri and other voice assistants by sending commands hidden in ultrasonic frequencies that are higher than we can hear.

Using the command to open the back door, they successfully hacked the navigation system on an Audi Q3.

Dear Corporate Governess,

Story continues below advertisement

I referred a good friend for a job in my office but it has turned into a nightmare. Not only is he “borrowing” my ideas but he’s also helping himself to my tea. What can I do without hurting the friendship?

— Dani L., Waterloo

Dear Dani,

Friends who become jerks under certain circumstances are still jerks and should be treated as such. But it will take diplomacy if the relationship is to survive. First, separate the petty from what really matters.

You need to address the idea theft before it becomes habitual and he steals your next promotion, but don’t start by assuming malicious intent. Try something like, “When we discussed my idea for doing [insert idea] in the office, I didn’t expect you to present it as your own. What were you thinking?” That helps establish your boundaries, the same way you would with any colleague who crosses a line. Not confronting the issue allows the offence to fester, which could further damage any trust between you.

As for the tea: Gently suggest he bring some biscuits to share over the next pot.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • All comments will be reviewed by one or more moderators before being posted to the site. This should only take a few moments.
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed. Commenters who repeatedly violate community guidelines may be suspended, causing them to temporarily lose their ability to engage with comments.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Cannabis pro newsletter