No one wants to be spied on but with today’s technology it has become easier than ever. Numerous devices can be connected to the Internet of Things and one of the most popular of the lot is a personal assistant. They can be very helpful, we have two of them here at the Nicely Done Sites World HQ but some disturbing information has come to light about them. So what is it and what (if anything) can you do about it?

Amazon Alexa

We have two Amazon Alexas here at Nicely Done Sites. They have been at the heart of numerous privacy issues in the past since they are always on and always listening so that it will be able to respond when asked to do something. That itself is not the troubling part as many Americans have either become numb to this or have adjusted their lifestyle on account of this. 

Responding to a request from US Senator Chris Coons (D-DE), Amazon reported that not only do they retain these voice recording but they are never deleted. According to Amazon’s response they retain the recordings until the customer chooses to delete them and when that is done the recording is deleted as well as the transcript. 

This means that Amazon has a full transcript of this. Hopefully this was not needed for anything and hopefully it made someone chuckle, Alexa does have some zany responses to some things.

These Recordings Are Helpful For Alexa

Transcripts of the recordings are attached to a customer’s account so it is not anonymous and these transcripts are used to improve Alexa and train employees. Amazon employees that work with Alexa may listen to up to 1,000 recordings per day to help Alexa be programmed to work better for people with speech impediments or who do not speak English well. Alexa also needs to be able to adapt to age and environment as well and these recordings are a valuable tool. 

On top of that Amazon also retains other records of the user’s interaction with Alexa and the records of Alexa’s actions following the request. Developers may also retain records as are purchase records (these are considered proof of purchases and thus cannot be deleted). 

How Can You Delete Your Recordings

In these days of increased awareness of the lack of digital privacy consumers are becoming more in touch with this. Many Americans find someone being able to randomly listen to their conversations to be at best creepy or an invasion of their privacy to downright Orwellian. So, the obvious question that should be asked is if Amazon removes the recordings when the user deletes them, how do you delete them?

They can be deleted from the Alexa app going to Account and then History where they can be deleted. Settings for this can be customized through the Privacy and Manage sections. The recordings are found in the History section and it may be surprising what is in there. Have a listen just to see the scope of what Amazon has on you. It is even possible an error may put someone else’s recordings in your file.

Big Brother Is Listening

From Amazon’s response to Senator Coons this may not guarantee that the audio files and transcripts are completely removed from Amazon’s system. You would certainly expect that some files would need to be kept for training of both employees and Alexa itself but this information should at the very least be anonymous, which Amazon does not seem to be doing. Of course any purchase should remain associated with an account so complete removal of all records may not be possible for everyone. 

These are issues that will need to be tackled here in the US. The EU already has with its GDPR regulations and it seems like it is a matter of time until something like this will be implemented in the US. In recent years we at least have become more cognizant of our privacy online and if the public supports regulation regarding this it will happen. And it may happen sooner rather than later as this is an issue that should have bi-partisan support among legislators.

Comments are closed.

Scroll to Top