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Amazon basically keeps your Alexa recordings for as long as it wants

You can manually delete voice recordings, but even that comes with an asterisk.

Published onJuly 4, 2019

Amazon Alexa vs Google Assistant

Amazon has confirmed it indefinitely keeps your Alexa transcripts and voice recordings if you don’t manually delete them. That’s according to a letter sent to Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) on June 28.

In the letter, Amazon Vice President of Public Policy Brian Huseman said the company uses the transcripts to “improve Alexa and the customer experience.” Amazon also uses the transcripts “to provide transparency to our customer about what Alexa thought it heard and what Alexa provided as a response.”

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You can review, listen to, and delete voice recordings associated with your account. If you delete a voice recording, transcripts of your Alexa request and answer go with it. You can delete voice recordings in the Alexa app or at Alexa Privacy Settings online. Huseman added that Alexa transcripts are deleted from Amazon’s main storage systems when users delete them, but work was underway to delete them in other storage systems.

However, Amazon “might still retain other records of customers’ Alexa interactions.” Compounding matters, developers of Alexa Skills can keep records of the interaction between an Amazon customer and Alexa.

Unfortunately for Amazon, Coons’ statement to CNET doesn’t sound like he feels better about things:

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. What’s more, the extent to which this data is shared with third parties, and how those third parties use and control that information, is still unclear.

Another point of contention is Amazon not making transcripts anonymous. Because transcripts are associated with every user’s account, anyone with access to an account can view those transcripts. You can delete recordings to prevent that from happening, but even that clearly comes with an asterisk.

By comparison, Apple keeps user data related to its Siri assistant for up to two years. Furthermore, the Cupertino firm claims to anonymize the data, but still uses it to improve Siri functionality.

Whichever way you cut this, Amazon’s response was not the one Coons and others similarly concerned about privacy wanted to read.

NEXT: How to hear and delete Alexa recordings

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