Privacy Remains A Concern for Smart Speaker Owners

July 20, 2022

Smart Speaker penetration has expanded in recent years in the US, and the COVID-19 pandemic led owners to use their devices more. Yet as much as some things change, they stay the same: privacy concerns still weigh heavily on the minds of Smart Speaker owners, with a key issue being the devices always listening. So finds the latest Smart Audio Report [download page] from National Public Media and Edison Research.

The study indicates that this year almost half (47%) of Smart Speaker owners agree that it bothers them that their device is always listening. That figure actually represents a considerable rise from the 38% who agreed with this concern 5 years ago, in the 2017 edition of the survey.

There has also been a slight rise in the percentage of Smart Speaker owners who worry that hackers could use their device to get access to their home or personal information, with 52% agreeing with this, compared to 48% in 2017. However, fewer worry that their device could allow the government to listen to their private conversations (43%, down from 48%).

Despite these concerns, this year almost 6 in 10 (58%) agree that they trust the companies that make the Smart Speaker to keep their information secure.

Still, for those survey respondents who don’t own a Smart Speaker, these worries also figure prominently. Half (51%) say that concerns about a Smart Speaker always listening are a reason they don’t own such a device, and likewise half (50%) say the same regarding worries about hackers getting access to their information or home.

Indeed, 62% of non-owners say it’s “not at all likely” they’ll purchase a voice-enabled speaker in the next 6 months, up from 46% who responded the same in 2017. This is perhaps to be expected as the market matures, as some of those non-owners in 2017 will have likely purchased a device by now.

Voice Usage Trends

As digital audio listening rises, 1 in 5 Smart Speaker owners say that their device is what they use most often to listen to audio. That’s slightly more than say they use AM/FM radio (19% share) most often, though mobile devices (smartphone or tablet) are the primary audio listening devices for the largest share (34%) of Smart Speaker owners.

Among Smart Speaker owners, those ages 45-54 appear to be the most likely to listen to audio most through their devices: 28% said they mostly do so, compared to the 20% average across adult age groups.

In support of other research finding widespread use of voice assistants, this year’s Smart Audio Report indicates that a growing share of voice tech users are frequently using voice commands. In fact, among those who ever use voice-operated personal assistants, 57% this year report doing so at least once a day, up from 52% who responded such in Spring 2020 and 46% in Winter 2019.

Meanwhile, Smart Speaker owners this year report requesting an average of 12.4 tasks on their devices each week, up from an average of 7.5 in 2017. Likewise, they’re requesting an average of 10.7 tasks on their smartphone voice assistants in a typical week, up from 8.8 in 2020.

Overall, 44% of Smart Speaker owners say they’re using their device more often now than during the first month they owned it, compared to 35% using it about the same amount and 21% less often.

Ads Resonate with Smart Speaker Owners

For brands looking to advertise in digital audio, Smart Speaker owners seem to be an engaged audience. Half report having ever heard an ad on their device, and of those, 53% said they’re likely to respond to ads on their device.

One in 3 Smart Speaker owners overall said that compared to ads they hear in other places, hearing an ad on their device would make them more likely to consider a brand. Among those who have heard an ad on their device, that figure rises to almost half (48%).

Finally, two-thirds of Smart Speaker owners and 8 in 10 of those who have heard an ad on their device agree that “brands that advertise on Smart Speakers are innovative.”

For more, download the study here.

About the Data: The results are based on a February-April survey of 1,190 Smart Speaker Owners, 560 voice assistant users who do not own a Smart Speaker, and 584 adults who do not use voice-operated assistants at all.

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