Amazon privacy news: Company keeps Alexa voice recordings forever, executive tells US senator

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Amazon Alexa leads skill count against Google Assistant and Microsoft Cortana. Reuters

A letter from Amazon (AMZN) to Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said that the company keeps recordings from its voice assistant Alexa indefinitely in response to questions about how Amazon uses and stores data.

Alexa is a voice assistant that is used on Amazon-affiliated devices, such as its Echo speakers. The assistant can carry out commands on a device, such as forecasting the weather, ordering food, or playing music, just with someone's voice.

Users can manually delete the recordings from the device, but Amazon will still keep the transcriptions to improve the service's AI.

"Our speech recognition and natural language understanding systems use machine learning to adapt to customers' speech patterns and vocabulary, informed by the way customers use Alexa in the real world," said Brian Huseman, Vice President of Public Policy at Amazon. "Training Alexa with voice recordings and transcripts from a diverse range of customers helps ensure Alexa works well for everyone.

Multiple states have filed lawsuits against Amazon, alleging that Alexa collects the conversations of children without their consent.

Alexa in 2018 accidentally sent private audio from a family in Portland, Oregon, to one of their contacts, without the family even knowing about it.

Similar concerns have been raised about Siri, a voice service on Apple (APPL) devices. Last year, the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook concerning the company's privacy policy in regards to recordings.

"We believe privacy is a fundamental human right and purposely design our products and services to minimize our collection of consumer data," Timothy Powderly, Apple's director of federal government affairs said. "When we do collect data, we're transparent about it and work to disassociate it from the user."

This article was first published in IBTimes US. Permission required for reproduction.

Related topics : Artificial intelligence