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A pair of Amazon Echo smart speakers. Photo: Joby Sessions / T3 Magazine via Getty Images

Amazon and Google, the leading sellers of digital assistants like Alexa, have each "filed patent applications that outline an array of possibilities for how devices like these could monitor more of what users say and do," the N.Y. Times reports.

Why it matters: "That information could then be used to identify a person’s desires or interests, which could be mined for ads and product recommendations."

  • "In one set of patent applications, Amazon describes how a 'voice sniffer algorithm' could be used on an array of devices, like tablets and e-book readers, to analyze audio almost in real time when it hears words like 'love,' 'bought' or 'dislike.'"
  • "A diagram ... illustrated how a phone call between two friends could result in one receiving an offer for the San Diego Zoo and the other seeing an ad for a Wine of the Month Club membership."
  • Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog, a nonprofit advocacy group: “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.”
  • What's next: "The Electronic Privacy Information Center has recommended more robust disclosure rules for internet-connected devices, including an 'algorithmic transparency requirement' that would help people understand how their data was being used and what automated decisions were then being made about them."

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Senate Democrats demand answers on FBI's Kavanaugh probe

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Senate Democrats are demanding that the FBI hand over "all records and communications" related to the FBI tip line set up to investigate Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh when he was a nominee in 2018.

Why it matters: The ask comes after the FBI revealed it received more than 4,500 tips about Kavanaugh when he was awaiting Senate confirmation amid sexual assault allegations. Only the most "relevant" of these tips were forwarded to the Trump White House.

Chip relief on the horizon

Illustration: Sarah Grillo

Good news: The worst of the chip supply crunch might be near.

The other side: Here's the bad news... CEOs say chips totally flowing like normal is still a ways out.