Google Home and Alexa in your Divorce

Posted on Jun 22, 2018 by Katie Carter

Technology does amazing things. I get it; I’m a millennial. I want all the techy things – the Apple Watches, the FitBits, the latest greatest Smartphone, and I even sort of want to be up to date on all the latest social media fads. (Though I can’t bring myself to call Instagram “Insta”, I’m not THAT young anymore.)

I like all the things. I like it. I’m comfortable with it. I’ve grown up with it. I played with KidPix and Number Munchers in the computer lab when I was in elementary school, and by middle school I had killed off entire families with dysentery as I traveled the Oregon Trail. I also really, really loved catching Carmen Sandiego.

But, as I get older and older, technology gets smarter and smarter. The first time Facebook used facial recognition software to automatically tag the people in a picture I posted, I was uncomfortable. The more I read about how criminals use information gleaned from social media sites to determine when to rob people’s houses and kidnap their children and steal their identities, the more I realize we’ve all got to be super duper careful about what we’re saying about ourselves online.

I worry about children’s privacy, too. Lucky for me, I didn’t have a Facebook account until college (in those days, it was limited to people with college email accounts – remember that?) so I wasn’t posting embarrassing pictures of myself when I was 13, 14, 15, or 16. Kids these days have these kinds of accounts, and are sharing all sorts of pictures of themselves. It’s really scary to think about what kind of information is just waiting out there in cyberspace. What will our employers (or our kids future employers) find about us? College admissions boards? Future romantic partners? …Your ex or soon to be ex husband in your divorce and custody case? Your husband’s attorney? Your children’s Guardian ad litem?

I wrote a free report on social media best practices if you’re facing a divorce or custody case, and as a citizen of the world we live in, it would definitely behoove you to read it. If you’ve got a Facebook account (or Twitter, or Instagram, or SnapChat), you need to know. You can get a copy by clicking here.  It’s definitely got lots of current information you need to know and should be considered every single time before you post something about yourself online.

But what about the technology I’ve got in my home? Will THAT impact my divorce or custody case?

More and more people are buying Google Home and Alexa devices. Why? Well, I’m not quite sure. But my understanding is that they’re pretty big. I know I said I liked technology (and I do) but this is one particular item that I’m not really all that sure I’d have a purpose for in my home. But, that being said, lots of people do, and we’re hearing about all sorts of issues that people are facing as it relates to them and their cases.

So, yeah, you should be careful, and you should really think about the devices you allow into your home. It’s a concern, and one you should take seriously.

What can someone do with a Google Home or Alexa device?

The biggest issue we’ve come across is recording conversations. These devices can be set to record conversations that take place during a certain time of day – with disastrous consequences!
It’s scary to think that an entire conversation could be recorded in your own home by a device that you purchased to make your life easier – which could then literally hand evidence to your husband in your divorce or custody case! Yikes.

Another problem we’ve run into is that it will sometimes call or email people, and send bizarre things. It may be that this isn’t a problem, depending on who the call or email was directed towards, but it could be a big deal.

What should I do to make sure my Google Home or Alexa device isn’t causing problems in my home?

Get rid of it! No, seriously – these things freak me out, especially now! I mean, I know they’re not, like, evil robots or something, but it is really disconcerting that a person could be recorded in their own home without their knowledge. And what’s it recording? A conversation? A fight? An event? Eeks.

Well, if getting rid of it isn’t an option (I get it, it was an investment, and you’re techy and cool and you want it), then I definitely suggest you carefully monitor it’s access online. There’s apps that relate to these devices, and if you log in, you should be able to tell what it’s set up to do. If it’s set to record at a certain time, the app should tell you. If your husband has the login and won’t give it to you….yeah, I wouldn’t keep that thing in MY home, if I were you.

As far as glitches, well, I can’t prevent that. I don’t know how some of the things that I’ve heard about have happened, but they’ve still happened. Technology does crazy things sometimes. And also, because Alexa is voice activated, I think there’s just a margin of error – after all, these things ARE computers, and they can’t perfectly read a person’s voice or tone every single time. Mistakes happen. And it depends on whether you can live with that possibility as to whether you’d like one of those devices in your home.

What mistakes might I be making that might impact my divorce or custody case?

Technology is great, and it makes life simpler – but it also makes the creation of evidence a lot easier in a lot of ways, too. We can get a person’s ENTIRE Facebook page history (pictures, messages, status updates – you name it) easily exported. Keep in mind that, while you’re online, you’re anything but anonymous.

While you’ve got devices, too, you’re creating little trails. I’m not saying get rid of everything (though that would be easier, in a perfect world), but just be aware, and make good decisions.
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