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Amazon, Google Patent Applications Hint At Devices Listening More

NEW YORK (CBSNEWS.COM) - A new report from The New York Times says that Amazon and Google devices could be keeping a closer tab on users in the future. Each company has filed patent applications that "outline an array of possibilities" for how its devices could monitor more of what users say and do.

Both Amazon and Google are the leading sellers of digital assistants. The information obtained could be used to identify a person's desires or interests. That data could then be mined for ad targeting and product recommendations.

This is happening amid a growing data scandal involving Facebook and Cambridge Analytica which harvested millions of user accounts. Amazon has said it takes privacy seriously and are looking to explore the possibilities of new technology. Google has said that all its products are designed with user privacy in mind.

The Times reports that Google's patent applications outline how audio and visual signals could be used to determine a speaker's mood or medical condition. The devices could analyze the "volume of the user's voice, detected breathing rate, crying" and it could detect a user's coughing and sneezing.

"When you read parts of the applications, it's really clear that this is spyware and a surveillance system meant to serve you up to advertisers," Consumer Watchdog President Jamie Court told The Times, adding the companies are "basically going to be finding out what our home life is like in qualitative ways."

(© 2018 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

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