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Amazon retains Alexa voice recordings indefinitely unless users manually delete them

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Amazon’s Alexa range of smart speakers are becoming increasingly popular simply because of how useful they are, but if you’re worried about your privacy, there’s news that won’t please you.

The Jeff Bezos-owned retail giant has now revealed that Amazon stores voice recordings and transcripts from interactions with the Alexa voice assistant indefinitely unless customers manually delete them. What sounds even worse is that even after manual deletion, some Alexa-related information can be retained by Amazon.

The confirmation came to light after a Democratic senator from Delaware, Sen. Chris Coons, sent a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos back in May, requesting information about the company’s privacy and data security practices for Alexa devices. This was after a report in April stated how thousands of Amazon employees listen to voice recordings of users captured in Echo speakers, all in order to improve the Alexa digital assistant that powers the smart speakers.

Amazon Echo Dot. Image: Amazon

As per a report by CNET, Amazon’s vice president of public policy, Brian Huseman, sent a response to the senator’s letter on 28 June in which he clearly tells Coons that Amazon keeps transcripts and voice recordings indefinitely, and only removes them if they’re manually deleted by users.

The VP of public policy also states in the response that Amazon had an “ongoing effort to ensure those transcripts do not remain in any of Alexa’s other storage systems.” However, he does mention in the letter that there are transcripts from some conversations with Alexa that Amazon won’t delete, even if people delete the audio clips of those conversations.

Coons, who didn’t at all sound pleased with Huseman’s response, issued a statement in which he said, “People deserve to understand how their personal data is being used by tech companies.”

“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 that information, is still unclear,” he added.

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