In response to Senator Chris Coons letter, Amazon revealed that it holds on to data collected by Alexa forever and shares it with others too.
Inadequate privacy practices
Democratic Senator from Delaware, Sen, Chris Coons sent a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in May this year, asking for answers about Alexa’s privacy practices. The senator had asked about the length of time for which Alexa holds voice recordings and transcripts and how the company utilized all the data it received. Coons gave Amazon time until June 30 to respond to his queries.
On June 28, Amazon’s vice president of public policy, Brian Huseman sent a response to Coons. He said that Amazon keeps all voice recordings and transcripts collected from the users and they are removed only when a user manually erases them. However, there will be some records of conversations that Amazon won’t delete even after a user manually deletes the audio. Huseman said that the company is focusing on an
“ongoing effort to ensure those transcripts do not remain in any of Alexa’s other storage systems.”
Tech companies treat data differently
Technology companies have gazillions of bytes of data on their users, which they receive from their platforms and services. Now, with smart voice assistants and smart home technology, tech giants can harvest more data from users than ever. However, they are not always upfront about the kind of data they collect and how they use it. There are concerns about users having control of their data.
Coons said in a statement that the American people deserve to understand the use of their personal data by tech companies. Note that Amazon can save requests made to Alexa like ordering a pizza or any other product or service. This type of data can be regarded as personal information. It can also save requests like alarms, reminders, and others. Huseman said that customers want this kind of features in Alexa. He said,
“Customers would not want or expect deletion of the voice recording to delete the underlying data or prevent Alexa from performing the requested task.”
Privacy advocacy groups are calling out Amazon for the use of the “Remember” feature in Alexa. Amazon doesn’t delete information stored to these reminders. Customers have to call the customer care at Amazon and request them to delete their entire profile to erase that information. The company said that this was merely a bug and has been fixed.