U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) sent a letter to Amazon Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos requesting information about the company’s privacy and data security practices for Alexa devices.
The letter follows recent news reports indicating that Amazon stores and indefinitely preserves text transcripts of user voice recordings, a practice that potentially puts Amazon users’ privacy at risk. Amazon has also filed a new patent for Amazon Alexa that increases privacy concerns, as the smart speaker would start recording even before users tell the technology to "wake up", according to a news report.
Last year, Coons and Senator Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) sent a letter to Bezos regarding privacy concerns about the Amazon Echo and its voice-activated software, Alexa. In response, Amazon highlighted many of its privacy protections, including the ability for a consumer to delete any and all voice recordings that Alexa sends to the cloud.
“Unfortunately, recent reporting suggests that Amazon’s customers may not have as much control over their privacy as Amazon had indicated,” Senator Coons wrote. “While I am encouraged that Amazon allows users to delete audio recordings linked to their accounts, I am very concerned by reports that suggest that text transcriptions of these audio records are preserved indefinitely on Amazon’s servers, and users are not given the option to delete these text transcripts. The inability to delete a transcript of an audio recording renders the option to delete the recording largely inconsequential and puts users’ privacy at risk.”
In the letter, Coons requests information on the types of data Amazon collects, stores and preserves, as well as the degree to which consumers control their personal information.
An Amazon spokesperson says, “We are reviewing the letter from the Senator. Customers have complete control over the voice recordings, and can review and delete voice recordings through the Alexa app and at www.Amazon.com/AlexaPrivacy. When a customer deletes a voice recording, we also delete the corresponding text transcript associated with their account from our main Alexa systems and many subsystems, and have work underway to delete it from remaining subsystems.”