This paper has discussed acoustic privacy issues and other home boundary control issues in order to argue that smart speakers are not only a privacy-invasive technology. Rather, smart speakers like the Echo affect interpersonal, embodied, and environmental processes of boundary management in ways that can paradoxically restore a sense of individual sonic control. From this study, in particular, I have explored how microfascist impulses interact with one’s AEH as one’s behaviors articulate a desire to maintain a preferred degree of boundary control over three overlapping dimensions of privacy: 1) interpersonal privacy, as one seeks to manage the sonic life of others according to social norms and “rules”; 2) embodied privacy, as one seeks to mediate the volume or affect of sound that impresses itself upon one’s ears and body; and 3) environmental privacy, as one seeks to control the leakiness of the acoustic environment from within and without. Future work might further discuss how technology interacts with a sensory regime of micropolitical power that is expressed through relationships of cohabitation.


I introduced and mobilized the concept of AEH both to discuss how one grows to live with and through one’s home as well as to speculate about how the Echo’s surveillance logic might interact with the acoustic environment and sonic practices of home. The study did not analyze my own data traces created while interacting with the device and application, a decision warranted by the fact that this study seeks to fill a gap in previous research by highlighting the intersection of data bleed (informational privacy) and sonic bleed (acoustic privacy) in a domestic context. 


The expansion of surveillance processes in all areas of social life and the increasing sophistication of eavesmining platforms calls for further research on the media specificity of emergent sonic technologies. Future work should recognize that smart speakers and other devices or applications are not only vehicles that yield acoustic data about users and their environments but are also mechanisms that influence expectations regarding boundary control at home and elsewhere. Simply put, one’s awareness that “the walls have ears” can change and perhaps even transform how one listens, speaks, and otherwise lives with and through sound.


The study has inherent limitations since my application of autoethnography meant that that it focused on the experiences of an adult, male, able-bodied dweller. The analysis of acoustic privacy in the home would be enriched by the lens of critical disability studies that recognizes how AEHs are radically affected by bodily differences. Indeed, scholars acknowledge the potential of smart speakers to assist elderly users or others with visual impairments or mobility limitations (Reis et al. 2018; Abdolrahmani et al. 2018; Campbell 2021). Smart speakers could enable some users with disabilities to maintain or increase their autonomy by expanding their access to media and affording greater control in a smart home environment. Future research could therefore address how smart speakers intersect with the privacy interests of those who otherwise might need to rely more heavily on forms of interpersonal caregiving or currently must forgo seamless connectivity with technology. In considering the intersection of data bleed and sonic bleed articulated by smart speakers, this vein of research should pay heed to how sonic interaction with technology may potentially reveal bodily differences between users and households, as variations in movement and domestic habits could become sonically associated or associable with personal disabilities. In conclusion, by listening carefully to the media specificity of smart speakers we not only learn how the technology interacts with one’s AEH but also gain insight into an emerging vector of surveillance at home.