Luxembourg Regulator Raises Alexa Privacy Issues

Amazon Alexa voice assistant

The privacy watchdog in Luxembourg, where Amazon has its European headquarters, has reached out to Amazon to get more info about its voice assistant, Alexa, and what the company does with its voice recordings.

Reuters is reporting that the move signifies an uptick in regulatory scrutiny over voice assistants and how they store and record data. 

Apple’s Siri, Google’s Assistant and Alexa are so popular that many regulators and lawmakers are concerned over the privacy implications, and want to know how companies are handling the data. 

Last week, both Google and Apple stopped reviewing voice recordings. According to a report in the Guardian, the contractors hired to listen to the recordings regularly heard private conversations and confidential info.

Luxembourg said it was in touch with Amazon, but it didn’t give specific details. 

“At this stage, we cannot comment further about this case as we are bound by the obligation of professional secrecy,” a spokesman said.

Amazon said that it was working to take care of any issues.

“For Alexa, we already offer customers the ability to opt out of having their voice recordings used to help develop new Alexa features,” a spokeswoman said. “The voice recordings from customers who use this opt-out are also excluded from our supervised learning workflows that involve manual review of an extremely small sample of Alexa requests.”

Last month, it was reported that Amazon 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.

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.

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.


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