Many hardware and software developers have started to integrate digital assistants into their products, such as Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Assistant and Apple’s Siri. These assistants offer a number of services and benefits, and can even be activated remotely using voice commands. However, because these platforms rely on connecting to a remote server, they run the risk of sending your recorded conversations or even personal information to others without your knowledge.
How digital assistants work
Every digital assistant uses the same underlying technology to answer questions and fulfill requests. Here’s an overview of how assistants record audio, send data to remote servers and analyze requests in order to respond:
Protecting your information
No technology is perfect, and it’s possible for smart devices to take unintended recordings for a number of reasons, such as a misinterpreted phrase, background noise, a damaged microphone or tampering. And, because the process of sending recordings to servers happens in seconds, you may not have a chance to prevent your information from being sent elsewhere.
Here are some tips you can use to control when your devices take recordings and protect your data:
According to a study published by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Monday, May 6, 2019, the active ingredients found in sunscreens can end up in the bloodstream at higher than recommended levels. The FDA says that this small study, which involved 23 volunteers, warrants conducting further safety studies.
The study evaluated one sunscreen cream, one lotion and two sprays. The 23 volunteers applied the specified sunscreen to 75% of their body four times a day for four days. Over the course of seven days, blood tests were conducted to determine the levels of certain chemicals absorbed into the bloodstream.
The study found the maximum plasma levels of avobenzone, oxybenzone and octocrylene (in one sunscreen, they also tested for ecamsule)—the active ingredients in sunscreen—to be above the level of 0.5 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL). For example, the study found the avobenzone concentration to be 4 ng/mL and 3.4 ng/mL in the sprays, 1.8 ng/mL in the cream and 4.3 ng/mL in the lotion.
The 0.5 ng/mL level is significant because it’s the level at which FDA guidelines call for further safety testing.
What Does This Mean?
The effects of plasma concentration exceeding the FDA’s limit isn’t currently known. As such, the study’s research team called for further safety testing to be conducted. However, the research team stated that the results of this small study do not suggest that people should stop using sunscreen. Failing to use sunscreen can leave you vulnerable to the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays.
It’s likely that further safety testing on sunscreen and its active ingredients will be conducted. Until told otherwise, continue to use sunscreen as directed when you’re out in the sun to protect your skin.
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