Amazon retains Alexa recordings, transcripts indefinitely

Occurred: July 2019

Amazon publicly confirmed that it keeps text transcripts of voice recordings made by users of its Alexa voice assistant services, even after users delete their voice recordings, enraging covil rights and privacy advocates.

The confirmation had come to light after Senator Chris Coons had sent a letter (pdf) to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos requesting information on the company’s privacy and data security practices for Alexa devices following reports indicating Amazon was storing and preserving text transcripts of user voice recordings.

Amazon had responded (pdf) by saying the company indefinitely retains text logs of transcribed audio recordings on its cloud servers, and that users are unable to have them deleted. By contrast, Google and Apple said they do not keep user transcript data indefinitely. 

Amazon had stated (pdf) in a 2019 white paper that Alexa user text data was stored 'for machine learning purposes,' and that it is not deleted until that process has been completed.

The confirmation comes after lawsuits were filed in Seattle and Los Angeles alleging that Amazon had been recording children using Alexa devices without their consent, even after parents had delete the voice recordings.

Operator: Amazon
Developer: Amazon

Country: USA

Sector: Consumer goods

Purpose: Provide information, services

Technology: NLP/text analysis; Natural language understanding (NLU); Speech recognition
Issue: Privacy

Transparency: Governance; Privacy; Marketing

Legal, regulatory 👩🏼‍⚖️