One TikToker is saving our skin by putting the privacy policies of popular tech products under the microscope and letting us know which bits to look out for.
One of the parts of the policy that especially piqued her interest was the section where Amazon outlines that they may store voice recordings when you speak to Alexa, as well as images and videos “collected or stored in connection with Amazon Services”.
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After requesting her data, she was shocked to discover over 3,534 audio clips of her speaking to her Alexa devices.
For reference, she said she has two Dots and one Echo.
Showing a massive folder with all of the audio clips, she played one where she can be heard asking Alexa to turn on the lights.
She was also shocked to discover a full list of her contacts from her phone, and said she doesn’t remember syncing that information.
The TikToker also found location data.
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Since uploading the video showing her Amazon data, the video has garnered 2.6 million views and over 185,000 likes.
One user commented: “You mean they save all the clips of me verbally assaulting my Alexa when she doesn’t listen?” along with a laughing emoji.
Another user wrote: “Can someone explain to me why this is ‘scary’? I’m not interesting enough to care if they have my contacts or audio.”
Another TikTok user said: “But… they literally do this so your life is made simpler, and you agree to the terms and conditions when you set up a device… I’m confused.”
She has since created a guide for how people can request their data, too.
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Although 3,534 audio files seems to be quite a lot, Echo devices are designed to only detect the user’s chosen wake word and no audio is stored or sent to the cloud unless the device detects the wake word. Customers will know if Alexa is sending a request to the cloud as a blue light will appear, or an audio tone will sound.
Alexa users are also reminded about their privacy settings during the set-up process, and Amazon sends them a reminder to check their privacy settings 30 days after setting up their devices. Amazon also sends Alexa customers an annual email outlining available privacy settings and features.
Users are able to tweak their location permissions on the Alexa app, or delete geo-location history by visiting the Manage Your Content and Devices page at www.amazon.co.uk/mycd.
In a statement to indy100, an Amazon spokesperson said: “We give customers transparency and control over their Alexa experience. Customers can easily review and delete their voice recordings, or choose not to have them saved at all, at any time.
“Customers can import their mobile phone contacts to the Alexa app so they can use features like hands-free calling and messaging; this optional feature, which customers need to set up, can be disabled at any time.
They concluded: “Finally, you can grant permissions for the Alexa app to use certain data, such as your mobile device’s geolocation, to provide relevant results (e.g., weather, traffic, restaurant recommendations), and you can manage these permissions in the app.”
Although there was nothing out of the ordinary in terms of the TikToker’s story, the tech giant did find itself in hot water in July after being fined €746 million (£629.5 million) by the Luxembourg National Commission for Data Protection.
The fine came as watchdogs found that Amazon’s processing of personal data wasn’t in step with EU General Data Protection Regulations.
The bill is the largest fine doled out since GDPR came into effect in 2018.
According to Insider, Amazon will appeal the ruling.
That’s not the only headache Amazon has had in recent months. Amazon-owned streaming website Twitch suffered a data breach two weeks ago in which details of creator payouts were breached.
We had better begin reading those privacy policies from now on.
If you fancy learning more about Alexa’s privacy features, visit the Alexa Privacy Hub.