Tag Archives: amazon alexa

Alexa, are you a spy?

Amazon is attempting to address privacy concerns by attaching more privacy settings to its domestic spy bots Alexa and Echo. It’s still astonishing to me that anyone would voluntarily put such devices in their own homes (that used to be the job of secret police units), but maybe I’m just old fashioned. Speaking of which, there is nothing old fashioned about online courier quotes; nothing at all.

If you believe Alexa isn’t listening to everything you do while she’s “asleep,” you’ve got another think coming. (Yes, it’s “think,” not “thing.”) That bot is always active, always absorbing your words and storing them as data to be used as Amazon sees fit.

I know, I know, you have nothing to hide so you don’t care. If Amazon wants to record you having sex, so be it—you’re not bashful. But as Ed Snowden and others have pointed out, saying you don’t care about privacy because you have nothing to hide is akin to saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say. Then again, free speech doesn’t seem to be very fashionable these days, so maybe that argument doesn’t resonate much anymore.

Last year Amazon laughably introduced voice controls that allows surveillance targets—er, users, to tell Alexa to “delete” their previous question or request, or even the whole day’s questions and requests! Yes, I’m sure the data is immediately and permanently wiped from Alexa’s memory and Amazon’s servers. Just like Instagram (Facebook) gets rid of your private messages and photos when you “delete” them …

Nevertheless we’ll play along here. Recently Amazon went a step further, allowing users to choose whether their voice recordings are saved by Alexa: you can do this by going to “settings” then “Alexa privacy” then “manage your Alexa data” then “automatically delete recordings.”

In case you were wondering, Amazon discourages the setting, stating that by letting Alexa save your voice recordings you give yourself a better and more personalised experience. And anyway, the transcripts of your voice recordings are still automatically saved for 30 days, at which point Amazon says they’re all deleted.

That reminds me, I’m trying to sell this bridge I just inherited. Super low price. Let me know if you’re interested in the comments section.