Privacy concerns ignited over Amazon Echo ‘transcripts’

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Be careful what you say to your Amazon Echo, as you never know who might eventually hear it.

The Information reported last week that Amazon is under pressure from competitors to make private transcript data from its Alexa devices accessible to tech developers. Amazon jumped ahead of the curve in creating the Echo, the first mass marketed home assistant hardware on the market.

But in the admirable pursuit of privacy protection for its customers, the company could be falling behind the eight ball. Amazon still doesn’t grant its developers full access to all Alexa’s transcript data, while Google lets it’s developers get all the data they need from it’s version of Alexa, “Google Home.”

With full data access, developers can pin point exactly how often individuals are requesting Alexa to perform certain “skills.” When trying to figure out how to make Alexa more marketable, this information is paramount. Skill developer Ahmed Bouzid, an ex-product head for the Alexa team, said that the current access only gives developers “7o percent of what they need to know.”

But the consequences for granting such access can’t be understated. Developers would have access to everything consumers have said or searched for using Alexa, and that information would be stored on systems susceptible to being hacked.

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has said such developments would not only “pose challenges to our cyber defenses and operational tradecraft but also create new opportunities for our own intelligence collectors.”

Thus, if new versions of Alexa make you feel as if she’s reading your mind, it could be that your habits have been programmed into her.

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