Amazon confirms it retains Alexa transcripts you cannot delete

Photo: Alex Cranz (Gizmodo)

Next time you use Amazon Alexa to send a message to a friend or order a pizza , you know that recording can be stored indefinitely, even if you ask to delete it.

In May, Delaware sent Senator Chris Coon's Amazon President Jeff Bezos a letter asking why Amazon holds transcripts of voices captured by Echo devices and cites privacy issues over the exercise. He was asked to report that Amazon is saving the text.

"Unfortunately, recent reports show that Amazon's customers may not have as much control over their privacy as Amazon had indicated," Coons wrote in the letter. "While encouraging Amazon to let users delete audio recordings associated with their accounts, I am very concerned with reports suggesting that text transcriptions of these audio entries will be preserved indefinitely on Amazon's servers and users will not be able to delete them. text transcripts. "

CNET first reported that Amazon's Vice President of Public Policy, Brian Huseman, responded to the Senator on June 28, informing him that Amazon is holding transcriptions to users manually deleting the information. The letter says Amazon is working to ensure that these transcripts do not remain in any of Alexa's other storage systems.

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There are, however, some Alexa-captured conversations like Amazon retains, regardless of customers' requests to delete recordings and transcripts, according to the letter.

As an example of recordings that Amazon may choose to keep despite deletion requests, Huseman mentioned instances when customers use Alexa to subscribe to Amazon's music or delivery service, request a rideshare, order pizza, buy media, set alarms, order pizza, buy media, set alarms, schedule calendar events or message friends. Huseman writes that it keeps these recordings because "customers do not want or expect deletion of the voice record to delete the underlying data or prevent Alexa from performing the requested task."

The letter says that Amazon generally holds recordings and transcripts so that users can understand what Alexa "thought it heard" and to train their machine learning systems to better understand variations of speech "based on region, dialect, context, environment, and individual speaker , including their age. " Such transcripts are not anonymous, according to the letter.

Amazon refused to comment on Gizmodo beyond what was included in Huseman's letter.

In his public response to the letter, Coon expressed concern that it sheds light on the ways in which Amazon adopts some recordings.

"Amazon's blades open the possibility that user voice contact transcripts with Alexa will not be deleted from all Amazon servers, even after a user has deleted a recording of their voice," Coons said. "In addition, the scope of this data is shared with third parties, and how these third parties use and control this information remains unclear."

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