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Amazon Backlashed over Retaining Voice Recordings

What’s not to like about Amazon? It has amazing products, great customer support, unparalleled bargains, and, on top of that, it even retains your voice commands history in case you forgot how to set the alarm or make an appointment.

Indeed, earlier this week, the US-based company received a major backlash following a letter from Senator Chris Coons.  In the aforementioned missive, Coons expressed his concern over Amazon’s customer privacy policies. The company made no efforts to dismiss the senator’s allegations, iterating that the customer’s always in full control of the account.

Amazon’s latest blunder to raise another red flag

It’s not the first time Amazon’s been publicly “shamed” over its very ‘transparent’ customer privacy protection policies. In fact, back in June, two Californian couples filed a class-action lawsuit against the company, claiming that Alexa device can and will recording children’s voices without parental consent.

Well, as it happens, Amazon’s again on the verge of yet another lawsuit. The latest blunder involves the very same voice recordings retention policies which got Amazon in trouble in the first place.

This time, the “Amazon Crusade” has a political backup, being spearheaded by Democrat Party representative Chris Coons. In late May, the senator expressed his deepest concerned over what he believes to be lackadaisical customer privacy policies.

More specifically, Coons’ reprimand targets Amazon’s inaction regarding the whole voice recordings retention business. It’s not enough that the Internet’s swarming will all manner of phishing nasties; even Alexa wants a piece of our privacy.

On Wednesday, Brian Huseman, Amazon’s VP of public policy, stated that Alexa indeed stores voice commands by default. However, he did point out that the user can always opt to delete Alexa’s voice commands history if he believes that his privacy’s at risk. Well, we might just do that, but it would have been nice to know about this before Coons’ released the Kraken. Anyway, here’s what the Democrat had to say about Amazon’s privacy breach:

I appreciate that Amazon responded promptly to my concerns <not like they had any choice, to be honest,>, an I’m encouraged that their answers demonstrate an understanding of and a commitment to protecting users’ personal information.

However, 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.

What’s more, the extent to which this data is shared with third parties, and how those third parties use and control their personal information, is still unclear, 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.

Well, that’s a handful, if the reader would permit such a personal comment. From Coons’ letter, we learn two things: A. Amazon records your voice by default even though the policy doesn’t say squat about this aspect and B; the company might be willing to trade the data to third parties without the users’ consent.

Wrap-up

Fortunately, there’s a way to stop Alexa from storing and transmitting your voice commands’ history. As Huseman pointed out, the user can always turn off this feature from Alexa’s Privacy Hub. Just select the time frame and hit the delete button. So, what’s your take on Amazon’s latest privacy blunder? Hit the comments section and let me know your thoughts.

About Daniel Sadler

Old-school PC gamer, poetry buff, cat lover, tech wiz. His writing career began almost two decades ago when he modestly acknowledged that hindsight or, lack thereof, can compromise security. He enjoys spending quality time with his friends and family. Most of his friends refer to Daniel as a "man of a few words, but, man, what words!" His interests include cybersecurity, IT, blogging, and, of course, everything related to technology.

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