'Amazon has admitted some recordings made by its constantly-eavesdropping AI personal assistant Alexa are never really gone from the company's servers, even if the user manually deletes them. Third parties get to keep them, too.
Not only are transcripts and voice logs stored on Amazon servers indefinitely, but even when a user explicitly deletes a particular recording, they can only be certain the files are removed from the company's "primary storage systems," Amazon admitted last week in a letter to Senator Chris Coons (D-Delaware) after he wrote to the company with questions about its data handling and privacy practices.
"We have an ongoing effort to ensure those transcripts do not remain in any of Alexa's other storage systems" after a user deletes a recording and Amazon removes it from their primary storage systems, the company's VP of Public Policy Brian Huseman wrote, acknowledging that servers "may still retain other records of customers' Alexa interactions, including records of actions Alexa took in response to the customer's request."
And customers wouldn't want it any other way, Huseman claimed.
"Customers would not want or expect deletion of the voice recording to delete the underlying data or prevent Alexa from performing the requested task" in the case of setting recurring alarms, date reminders, or sending messages to friends, Huseman is certain.
Developers of third-party "skills" - tasks performed through Alexa like ordering a car, having food delivered, and even intra-Amazon requests like streaming music – "obviously need to keep a record of the transaction," as well.
"We use the customer data we collect to provide the Alexa service and improve the customer experience, and our customers know that their personal information is safe with us," Huseman reassured the Senator – despite the recent privacy-related incidents like the November breach that exposed Amazon customers' emails or several cases of Alexa sending users' private conversation to a random contact.'
Read more: Amazon admits it keeps some Alexa recordings even when users delete them
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2 November 2019
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