If you delete your Alexa recordings, it doesn’t mean the transcripts are deleted

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A new finding revealed that Amazon deletes your Alexa voice recordings, when requested, but they don't delete the transcripts of your conversations with it. Whenever you communicate or wake your Alexa device, several words such as “Alexa” to “Echo” to “computer” can be used.

Once you wake your device, it starts listening to you and transcribes everything it hears. If you take a look at your Alexa dialogue history, you can find text transcripts next to recordings like “Set an Alarm” and more.

Amazon gives you a false sense of privacy by letting you delete all your voice recordings. However, you have zero control over the text transcripts of all your exchanges with Alexa. Ultimately, Amazon ends up collecting all the voice data exchanged with Alexa, but just not in the form of a recording. It is found that all such text transcripts are stored on Amazon’s Cloud and aren't immediately deleted.

Amazon said that it deletes all such text transcripts from the “main system” of Alexa but there are other areas where data can travel and it is currently working on tracing and deleting such data.

From an Amazon spokesperson to CNET:

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“When a customer deletes a voice recording, we also delete the corresponding text transcript associated with their account from our main Alexa systems and many subsystems, and have work underway to delete it from remaining subsystems”.

We’re now at an era where all ‘big tech’ companies have been exposed as privacy abusers. In such a case, a revelation such as this about Amazon abusing customer data upsets the users more. By and by, the public is growing suspicious about technology and placing it under heavy scrutiny.

Just this Thursday, several groups alongside public health advocates have lodged a complaint against Amazon’s Echo Dot Kids Edition on grounds of violating the federal law for children under age 13.

All this while, it was Facebook which was under the limelight for privacy abuse and data scandals. With Amazon adding to that list, it just creates a huge sense of mistrust among consumers on the big tech companies. As of now, it is estimated that Amazon sold more than 100 million Alexa devices and that makes it clear that Amazon is sitting on a vast ream of consumer data collected without their consent and knowledge.

Here’s what Theresa Payton, a former White House Chief Information Officer who now heads a Cybersecurity company said:

“Here's what I tell all of our business executives and consumers: ‘Delete' is never really ‘delete.’ Delete just means that you can't see it anymore.”

This statement aptly summarizes the rampant non-consensual data mining and privacy abuse.

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Naga Pramod

Naga Pramod is a computer science major and tech news reporter with a passion for cyber security, networking, and data science. [email protected]