Alexa Keeps Your Recordings Indefinitely Unless Manually Deleted

Jul 3, 2019
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If you were worried about Amazon storing your Alexa recordings for as long as they wanted, you were right.  Sen. Chris Coons, a senator from Delaware, sent a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in May, demanding answers on Alexa and how long it kept voice recordings and transcripts, as well as what the data gets used for.

Amazon’s vice president of public policy, Brian Huseman sent a response which states that Amazon keeps transcripts and voice recordings indefinitely, and only removes them if they’re manually deleted by users. The wording in the letter is ambiguous and provides little in the way of answers. There are some recordings that are removed when the user deletes them and at the same time, there are some that aren’t. Here’s the exact verbiage (via CNET):

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When a customer deletes a voice recording, we delete the transcripts associated with the customer’s account of both of the customer’s request and Alexa’s response. We already delete those transcripts from all of Alexa’s primary storage systems, and we have an ongoing effort to ensure those transcripts do not remain in any of Alexa’s other storage systems. 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. And when a customer interacts with an Alexa skill, that skill developer may also retain records of the interaction. For example, for many types of Alexa requests such as when a customer subscribes to Amazon Music Unlimited, places an Amazon Fresh order, requests a car from Uber or Lyft, orders a pizza from Domino’s, or makes an in-skill purchase of premium digital content. Amazon and/or the applicable skill developer obviously need to keep a record of the transaction. 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

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Amazon deploys what it calls “skills” on the Alexa platform which keeps a record of interactions customers have with Alexa. Some of the examples cited by Amazon include ordering a pizza, hailing a cab and placing an order on Amazon. It is unclear what kind of data is retained for these “skills” to work. Even requests such as setting an alarm, reminder, or calendar event leave data, according to Amazon.

Amazon said it uses the transcripts for training its voice assistant. The transcripts aren’t anonymized and are tied to your Amazon account. The only way to get rid of them completely is to call customer service and delete the profile completely. If you would like to review and delete any Alexa voice or transcript data in your Amazon account, you can do so under the Alexa Privacy section. Head over to the “Change your digital and device settings” in the “Your Devices and Content” section of your account.

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