Privacy is not Amazon’s forte when it comes to Alexa. Smart speakers not only opened the door for the company to spy on you but on more than one occasion, vulnerabilities have been discovered that expose users’ privacy. The most recent topic has to do with advertising and how Amazon uses your voice to show you ads.
The study Your Echos Are Heard: Ad Tracking, Profiling, and Targeting in Amazon’s Smart Speaker Ecosystem, exposes how Amazon collects data from your interactions with Alexa and shares it with up to 41 advertising partners. By giving instructions to your Echo, Amazon will use that information to display targeted advertising.
The researchers created nine profiles of people to analyze the percentage of targeted ads. With the help of a Raspberry Pi router, an Echo speaker, and the Alexa Voice Services SDK, they found that our interactions with Alexa are collected by Amazon and third parties, including advertising and tracking services.
Amazon processes your voice data and uses it to serve targeted ads
According to the study, interaction with smart speakers leads to up to 30 times higher ad bids from advertisers. Amazon processes voice data to infer user interests and uses it to serve targeted ads on and off the platform.
Academics from the University of Washington, UC Davis, UC Irvine, and Northeastern University determined that Amazon’s practices are inconsistent with its privacy protection discourse. The inference of the company in the advertising interests is a violation of the policies of use.
In summary, we found strong evidence that smart speaker interactions are used for the purpose of ad targeting, and that ad targeting involves significant data sharing between multiple parties.
The study suggests the need for greater transparency and control for users. Amazon would have to redesign its platform to improve the privacy of its consumers, as well as open it up so that developers and auditors know exactly how much data is being shared.
How to prevent Alexa from spying on you?
Amazon confirmed to The Verge that it does use our interactions with Alexa to deliver targeted advertising, though that’s common when we use its online store or streaming music service. A company spokeswoman said Amazon does not share voice recordings with developers or third parties without customer consent.
If you have an Echo speaker, it is possible that Alexa knows everything about you. Currently, there is a way to enjoy a more private and secure experience by adjusting the privacy options. All you need is to access your Amazon account from the web and follow these steps.
- Go to the Amazon website and log in.
- Once inside, click on the My Account option.
- Find the Manage content and devices section.
- Go to Manage Settings under Alexa Privacy.
- A new screen will show you some options in a sidebar on the left.
- Tap Review voice history.
- This page will give you tools to navigate the recordings that Alexa has of you. You can also see the generated transcripts, but there is also a button to play the recordings.
At the end of each recording, you will see a Delete Recording button, which you can use to get rid of them.
- However, if you select All History under Date Range, the Delete All Recordings From All History button will be enabled; With this function, you will delete everything that Alexa has stored about you.