Smart speaker privacy control - acoustic tagging for personal voice assistants

Peng Cheng, Ibrahim Ethem Bagci, Jeff Yan, Utz Roedig

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution book

10 Citations (Scopus)
11 Downloads (Pure)


Personal Voice Assistants (PVAs) such as the Siri, Amazon Echo and Google Home are now commonplace. PVAs continuously monitor conversations which may be transported to a cloud back end where they are stored, processed and maybe even passed on to other service providers. A user has little control over this process. She is unable to control the recording behaviour of surrounding PVAs, unable to signal her privacy requirements to back-end systems and unable to track conversation recordings. In this paper we explore techniques for embedding additional information into acoustic signals processed by PVAs. A user employs a tagging device which emits an acoustic signal when PVA activity is assumed. Any active PVA will embed this tag into their recorded audio stream. The tag may signal a cooperating PVA or back-end system that a user has not given a recording consent. The tag may also be used to trace when and where a recording was taken. We discuss different tagging techniques and application scenarios, and we describe the implementation of a prototype tagging device based on PocketSphinx. Using the popular PVA Google Home Mini we demonstrate that the device can tag conversations and that the tagging signal can be retrieved from conversations stored in the Google back-end system.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication2019 IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy Workshops (SPW)
Place of PublicationNew York
Number of pages6
ISBN (Electronic)9781728135083
ISBN (Print)9781728135090
Publication statusPublished - 19 Sept 2019
Event2019 IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy Workshops - San Francisco, United States
Duration: 23 May 201923 May 2019

Publication series

NameProceedings - 2019 IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy Workshops, SPW 2019


Conference2019 IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy Workshops
Abbreviated titleSPW 2019
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Francisco
Internet address


  • acoustic privacy
  • IoT security and privacy
  • personal voice assistants
  • signal tagging
  • smart speakers
  • virtual assistants
  • voice controllable systems
  • Wake word detection


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