Amazon has recently admitted that it doesn’t always delete data that it obtains through Alexa and Echo devices even after a user chooses to wipe the audio files from their account.
The revelations, outlined explicitly by Amazon in a letter to Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), which was published today and dated June 28th, sheds even more light on the company’s privacy practices with regard to its digital voice assistant.
The answers comes as a follow-up to a request from Coons dating to last month when Coons questioned how long the company holds on to voice recordings and transcripts from Echo interactions.
In a letter, Amazon confirmed some of the allegations. “We retain customers voice recordings and transcripts until the customer chooses to delete them,” the letter reads.
Amazon claims that it doesn’t hold on to the audio files, but it may hold on to transaction information for example if someone uses Alexa to call an Uber or place a food delivery order, for instance.
“We do not store the audio of Alexa’s response. However, we may still retain other records of customers’ Alexa interactions, including records of actions Alexa took in response to the customer’s request,” Huseman wrote.
The letter also points out that the company, and even developers of Alexa skills, can keep a record of every transaction or routinely scheduled activity a user makes with an Echo device. This, Amazon says, ensures that the task is easily repeatable and convenient for the user.
“And for other types of Alexa requests — for instance, setting a recurring alarm, asking Alexa to remind you of your anniversary, placing a meeting on your calendar, sending a message to a friend — customers would not want or expect deletion of the voice recording to delete the underlying data or prevent Alexa from performing the requested task,” Huseman said.
“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,” Coon said in a statement.
“The American people deserve to understand how their personal data is being used by tech companies, and I will continue to work with both consumers and companies to identify how to best protect Americans personal information.”