this 'parasite' protects your privacy by feeding smart speakers white noise

this 'parasite' protects your privacy by feeding smart speakers white noise

smart speakers aren’t always smart and sometimes they record things they shouldn’t. last may, a woman claimed that her amazon echo taped a private conversation and forwarded it to someone she didn’t know. then in december, a man asked for his data from amazon – and they sent him 1,700 recordings of someone else. fortunately though, designer bjørn karmann has taken it upon himself to come up with a hack, protecting users’ privacy. project alias is an open-source ‘parasite’ to train custom wake-up names for smart home devices while disturbing their built-in microphone.

images courtesy of bjoern karmann



project alias is designed to give users more control over their smart assistants, both when it comes to customisation and privacy. it’s composed of a 3D-printed top layer, a mic array, raspberry pi, and two speakers. it sits atop the a smart speaker like amazon alexa or google home, playfully made to look like a living organism that has taken over.



through an app users can train alias to react on a custom wake-word/sound, and once trained, alias can take control over your home assistant. equipped with speakers and a microphone, alias is able to communicate and manipulate the home assistant when placed on top of it. when not in use, alias makes sure the assistant is paralysed and unable to listen by feeding its’ microphones with white noise.



the wake word detection is made with a small neural network that runs locally on alias, which can be trained and modified through live examples. the app acts as a controller to reset, train and turn on/off alias. users can also create new custom functionalities and commands that the products were not originally intended for.



project alias is not available to buy as a retail product at the moment but karmann has made it possible for people to freely download the 3D printing building instructions and github code. that way, you can make sure your private information stays private.



‘we looked at how cordyceps fungus and viruses can appropriate and control insects to fulfill their own agendas and were inspired to create our own parasite for smart home systems‘, karmann explains.therefore we started project alias to demonstrate how maker-culture can be used to redefine our relationship with smart home technologies, by delegating more power from the designers to the end users of the products.

    have something to add? share your thoughts in our comments section below.
    all comments are reviewed for the purposes of moderation before publishing.

    comments policy
    LOG IN
    designboom's comment policy guidelines
    generally speaking, if we publish something, it's because we're genuinely interested in the subject. we hope you'll share this interest and if you know even more about it, please share! our goal in the discussion threads is to have good conversation and we prefer constructive opinions. we and our readers have fun with entertaining ones. designboom welcomes alerts about typos, incorrect names, and the like.
    the correction is at the discretion of the post editor and may not happen immediately.

    what if you disagree with what we or another commenter has to say?
    let's hear it! but please understand that offensive, inappropriate, or just plain annoying comments may be deleted or shortened.

    - please do not make racist, sexist, anti-semitic, homophobic or otherwise offensive comments.
    - please don't personally insult the writers or your fellow commenters.
    - please avoid using offensive words, replacing a few letters with asterisks is not a valid workaround.
    - please don't include your website or e-mail address in your comments for the purpose of self-promotion.
    - please respect jury verdicts and do not discuss offensively on the competition results
    (there is only one fist prize, and designboom usually asks renown professionals to help us to promote talent.
    in addition to the awarded designs, we do feel that almost all deserve our attention, that is why we publish
    the best 100-200 entries too.)

    a link is allowed in comments as long as they add value in the form of information, images, humor, etc. (links to the front page of your personal blog or website are not okay). unwelcome links (to commercial products or services of others, offensive material etc. ) will be redacted. and, ... yes, spam gets banned. no, we do not post fake comments.


    a diverse digital database that acts as a valuable guide in gaining insight and information about a product directly from the manufacturer, and serves as a rich reference point in developing a project or scheme.

    technology news

    keep up with our daily and weekly stories
    502,388 subscribers
    - see sample
    - see sample