Anyone using Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa at home has most certainly wondered what happens to recorded voice commands. Now Amazon admits itself: The built-in delete function for Alexa calls is not fully comprehensive.
In more and more German households are smart speakers. They help with cooking, remind you of appointments and play your favorite songs automatically after a short voice command.
In short: Alexa, the Google Assistant and Co. make our everyday life easier and especially take on small tasks. In addition, the smart loudspeakers – contrary to many forecasts – have not yet achieved the breakthrough in depth.
One main reason for this is the skepticism of many users. The fear that Amazon, Google and Co. overhear private conversations is omnipresent. Accordingly, the users also like to use the possibility to delete all previous Alexa calls.
Amazon does not completely delete Alexa calls despite being prompted
But on the orders of its users, Amazon really deletes the recorded Alexa conversations? That’s what US Senator Chris Coons of Amazon wanted to know. That’s why the Delaware Democrat sent a questionnaire to Seattle tech giants.
For a short time, the official answer from Amazon on the side of the US Senator is now available. Brian Huseman, Vice President of Public Policy at Amazon, answers a total of ten questions.
The answers of the company spokesperson are for us users partly scary or enlightening – depending on the perspective. For example, Huseman writes:
However, we may still retain other records of Alexa’s interactions, including records Alexa’s response to the customer’s request. […] And for other types of Alexa requests for instance, asking for a recurring alarm, ask Alexa to remind you of your anniversary, placing a message on a customer-customers would not want or expect deletion of Alexa from performing the requested task.
Recorded Amazon conversations serve as technology training
Specifically, this means that there are situations in which Amazon reserves the right not to delete individual Alexa conversations of its users despite command. But what does Amazon use the files for? That’s what Chris Coons wanted to know about the group.
Amazon also has an answer to this question: The recorded Alexa conversations are used by the company to improve Alexa’s speech recognition and understanding by means of machine learning. After all, every dialect and every language variation is very helpful for Amazon.
Above all, the second part of the above-quoted answer should, however, make us thinkers. It translates as “Customers would not want or expect that deleting the voice record will cause the background information to be deleted or prevent Alexa from performing the requested task.”
Amazon implies, at least indirectly, that its users are not interested in having their calls deleted, otherwise they would not benefit from Alexa’s abilities.
However, this assessment is very risky and affects both the freedom of expression and the privacy of users. Through this statement, Amazon creates itself an artificial legitimacy to override the explicit desire for deletion by the user.
It remains to be hoped that Senator Chris Coons will not settle for this answer – and actively intervene German authorities.
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