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Ensure your privacy around smart speakers with a $39 Paranoid auto-mute device

Paranoid is a crazy gadget that keeps your Echo or Google speaker muted except when you want to talk to it, and it's 20% off.

Dave Johnson
3 min read

Do you trust your smart speaker? You probably have an Alexa  device in the kitchen or a Google Home in the bedroom, and there's ample evidence that your privacy has not always been a top priority. To be sure, there are ways to protect yourself, like manually setting your speaker's microphone to mute when it's not in use. But that's inconvenient. What if there was a gadget that could mute -- and unmute -- your speaker's mic for you automatically? That's the concept behind Paranoid, a device that blocks your speaker from listening, yet keeps it available for voice control when needed. Right now, you can order a Paranoid device for $39, which is 20% off the usual price of $49.

I find Paranoid fascinating; my dad would probably say it's a Rube Goldberg-like contraption that solves a problem in a needlessly complicated way. But my dad doesn't have an Alexa device and wouldn't quite get the nuanced challenges of keeping a smart speaker available to listen for your voice, yet not listen except when you need it. 

Here's how it works, in a nutshell: You preface your usual wake word ("Alexa" or "Hey,  Google ") with "Paranoid." When Paranoid hears its own wake word, it unmutes your speaker's microphone. Then use the usual wake word and interact with the speaker or display like you ordinarily would. Then it'll re-mute the mic when you're done. 

Here are the three gadgets that Paranoid offers, all 20% off. Unfortunately, due to the global pandemic, Paranoid estimates that the Paranoid Home Max and Paranoid Home Button won't ship for about 6-8 weeks; the Paranoid Wave will ship in 8-12 weeks. 

The Paranoid Home Button is a gadget that you affix to your smart speaker. It works like a tiny robot: When it hears you say "Paranoid," it unmutes the speaker, and then re-mutes the microphone when you're done. 

The Home Button is compatible with a slew of Echo speakers and displays. For the whole list, see the compatibility list

Rather than physically pushing a mute button, Home Wave generates noise -- imperceptable to you -- that prevents the speaker's mic from hearing anything going on in the room. Essentially, it's a jammer you affix to the speaker, near its microphone. The "paranoid" wake word temporarily stops the jamming.

For the whole list of compatible speakers and displays, see the compatibility list

Consider this the nuclear option. If your speaker lacks a mute button,you can ship your speaker to Paranoid. The company will open the speaker up, snip some wires, and insert the Home Max in the signal path, physically bypassing the original circuit. For the whole list of compatible devices, see the compatibility list

Watch this: Amazon Echo Show 8 review: Alexa is getting even better

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