Editor’s Note: My Mother asked if I would like an “Alexa” as a Christmas gift last year. My answer? A resounding “NO”! Although I did not have the data to prove unauthorized surveillance by this device…my gut feeling led me to decline this offer.
Now we have an article indicating my instincts were correct! Alexa does indeed store all data it “listens to” indefinitely, and worse, releases this info to thrid party vendors! And you thought your private life was private? Not if you own any type of responsive listening device!
So…turn off your nifty device which will turn on our lights, record your calendar, remind you of appointments, and inform others of the details of how you live, and be…
By Mayukh Saha,
Delaware senator Chris Coons had sent a questionnaire to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in May. He had enquired how Amazon utilizes and retains data from the voice assistant device Alexa. Bezos has now confirmed that the recordings on the device and their transcripts never expire automatically.
CNET first reported Amazon’s reply to Coons and it confirms that data is retained until the customer deletes them personally.
Not just Amazon, third parties also have access to your voice recordings and data. Amazon clarifies how third party companies that deploy “skills” on the Alexa device need to retain the interactions as a record to perform those tasks. Amazon is yet to clarify the specific nature of data that the third parties or Amazon retains.
Tasks like setting a calendar, reminders or even an alarm leave data. Amazon argues these data must be retained to enable Alexa to perform those tasks.
You can review and change or delete your data from your Alexa device by going to the “Your Devices and content” section in your account and following into “Change your digital and device settings” which has the Alexa Privacy section.
Coons has been vocal about the ambiguity behind Amazon’s response. He is not too trusting of how third parties may use and control customer information.
Several “Big Techs” like Facebook and Google have run into trouble with lawmakers and regulators this year, along with Amazon. The company had admitted in April how their human employees listen to “small samples” from the Alexa audio recordings to annotate and improve the software. This is one of the reasons that led Coons to request further information on the issue from Amazon.
The Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice handles antitrust and competition matters. In June they decided to look into the “Big Techs”. DOJ is to look into Apple and Google while the FTC investigates Amazon and Facebook.
The House Judiciary Committee announced the next day a bipartisan investigation into business behavior and competition regulation in digital market, including Amazon.
So next time you reach out to your Alexa, be careful of what data you are willing to share. Maybe ask Alexa to set a reminder for you to delete the recordings periodically?
IMAGY CREDIT: Olena Kychygina