It has been revealed that Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) hangs on to every conversation you’ve ever had with an Alexa-enabled device until or unless you specifically delete it. If not manually deleted, it will sit on Amazon’s servers for an indefinite amount of time. The recordings, and their transcripts, never expire automatically.
The revelation was made in response to a series of questions posed by Sen. Chris Coons (D-Delaware) in a letter to Amazon in May. In the letter, Sen. Coons expressed “concerns” about how Amazon uses and retains customers’ Alexa voice assistant data. In its response, Amazon confirmed that it doesn’t always delete the stored data of users’ voice interactions.
Amazon said in its statement that it “[retains] customers’ voice recordings and transcripts until the customer chooses to delete them.” The company clarified that they “do not store the audio of Alexa’s response. However, we may still retain other records of customers’ Alexa interactions, including records of actions Alexa took in response to the customer’s request.”
Amazon noted that other records of customers’ Alexa interactions” may still be retained by Amazon, as well as by third parties that deploy “skills” on the Alexa platform. Amazon 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.” Recurring requests are usually held for ease of use.
Senator Coons found Amazon’s response left unclear “the extent to which this data is shared with third parties, and how those third parties use and control that information.” The senator commented, “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. 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.”