Bryan ClarkFormer Managing Editor, TNW
Bryan is a freelance journalist. Bryan is a freelance journalist.
Amazon recently announced an easy solution for privacy-conscious individuals to delete the devices’ saved recordings. Now, with a simple voice command, anyone with an Alexa-powered device can wipe it clean of previously recorded data.
To be fair, the solution existed already, although it wasn’t nearly as straightforward for the end user. Users had to use the Alexa app, or the Amazon website to delete these recordings.
As privacy concerns heat up surrounding the use of always-on speakers, Amazon seems to be responding in kind to some of its biggest concerns. To date, those concerns have mostly centered on storing voice data on Amazon-owned servers to better train its artificial intelligence.
For consumers, the decision to use these devices came with an implicit agreement to allow them to store this data, though it’s unclear how many smart speaker owners knew this to be the case.
Alexa, and Apple’s Siri, keep recordings of anything said after the devices hear “wake” words that trigger them to action. Google’s assistant used to, although it recently decided not to keep recordings heard after its “Hey, Google” prompt.
Amazon’s new feature, available today, lets users remove a day’s worth of recording data by saying, “Alexa, delete everything I said today.” Amazon also says it will soon allow users to delete individual requests by saying, “Alexa, delete what I just said,” according to the Washington Post.
While it’s a step in the right direction, you still have to wonder whether the delete command is actually deleting all evidence of your conversation with a smart assistant. Strictly speculating, it’s plausible that Amazon could use the vocal data before deleting it too, for training purposes, presumably.
Amazon didn’t respond to our request for comment attempting to clarify how it was using the data during the window in which it retained possession of it — or what assurances, if any, we had that deleted data was actually deleted everywhere.
And if we’re nitpicking, which I’m always glad to do, it’d be nice to have an option to delete more than a day’s worth of data at a time — especially for the days one forgets.
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