Archives July 4, 2019

Amazon Alexa Keeps Your Data With No Expiration Date, and Shares It Too

If you have hangups about Amazon and privacy on its smart assistant, Alexa, you’re not alone. Even after Amazon sent answers to a US senator who had questions about how the tech giant retains voice data and transcripts, the lawmaker remains concerned about Alexa’s privacy practices. From a report:

Sen. Chris Coons, a Democrat from Delaware, sent a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in May, demanding answers on Alexa and how long it kept voice recordings and transcripts, as well as what the data gets used for. The letter came after CNET’s report that Amazon kept transcripts of interactions with Alexa, even after people deleted the voice recordings. The deadline for answers was June 30, and Amazon’s vice president of public policy, Brian Huseman, sent a response on June 28. In the letter, Huseman tells Coons that Amazon keeps transcripts and voice recordings indefinitely, and only removes them if they’re manually deleted by users. Huseman also noted that Amazon had an “ongoing effort to ensure those transcripts do not remain in any of Alexa’s other storage systems.” But there are still records from some conversations with Alexa that Amazon won’t delete, even if people remove the audio, the letter revealed.

A Researcher Attempted To Opt Out of Facial Recognition at the Airport — It Wasn’t Easy

The announcement came as we began to board. Last month, I was at Detroit’s Metro Airport for a connecting flight to Southeast Asia. I listened as a Delta Air Lines staff member informed passengers that the boarding process would use facial recognition instead of passport scanners. As a privacy-conscious person, I was uncomfortable boarding this way. I also knew I could opt out. Presumably, most of my fellow fliers did not: I didn’t hear a single announcement alerting passengers how to avoid the face scanners.

To figure out how to do so, I had to leave the boarding line, speak with a Delta representative at their information desk, get back in line, then request a passport scan when it was my turn to board. Federal agencies and airlines claim that facial recognition is an opt-out system, but my recent experience suggests they are incentivizing travelers to have their faces scanned — and disincentivizing them to sidestep the tech — by not clearly communicating alternative options. Last year, a Delta customer service representative reported that only 2 percent of customers opt out of facial-recognition. It’s easy to see why.