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Amazon Raises Privacy Concerns With Voice Storage Practices

Amazon Raises Voice Storage Privacy Concerns

Amazon has confirmed that it keeps Alexa voice data with no intention to delete it unless done so by a customer, and also that it keeps some voice data regardless of whether it was deleted or not, according to reports.

U.S. Senator Chris Coons sent a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in May asking for answers about Alexa privacy policies. The senator wanted to know how long Amazon kept users’ voice recordings and how the data gets used.

Amazon’s VP of Public Policy Brian Huseman replied and said that Amazon keeps the recordings indefinitely, and that they are only removed if done so manually by a user.

He said Amazon kept up an “ongoing effort to ensure those transcripts do not remain in any of Alexa’s other storage systems,” but also that there is some data Amazon won’t delete, even if someone does remove the audio.

“The American people deserve to understand how their personal data is being used by tech companies, and I will continue to work with both consumers and companies to identify how to best protect Americans’ personal information,” Coons said in a statement.

Amazon said that Alexa voice requests that are part of a transaction, such as when someone orders an Uber or food delivery, are kept as a record. Reminders and alarms are also saved.

“Customers would not want or expect deletion of the voice recording to delete the underlying data or prevent Alexa from performing the requested task,” Huseman said in the letter.

Amazon also said it recently fixed an issue where certain information wasn’t deleted unless a user called customer service to do so.

“Amazon’s response leaves open the possibility that transcripts of user voice interactions with Alexa are not deleted from all of Amazon’s servers, even after a user has deleted a recording of his or her voice,” Coons said. “What’s more, the extent to which this data is shared with third parties, and how those third parties use and control that information, is still unclear.”

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