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Surprise! Amazon uses Alexa voice data to serve targeted ads

Your Echo smart speaker remembers what you say.

amazon logo and echo device
Image: KnowTechie

It’s pretty safe to assume that any piece of technology with an internet connection is gathering up user data to sell to advertisers. A recent report reveals that Amazon uses its Echo devices to gather voice data from users to serve targeted ads.

The report published earlier this month comes from several researchers from a few different universities. According to the report, Amazon “processes voice data to infer user interests…to serve targeted ads.”

The company uses this data to deliver targeted ads. It uses the information to serve ads both on Echo devices, as well as on the company’s website. According to the research, advertisers are willing to bid up to “30X” more when this kind of data is available.

An Amazon spokesperson has confirmed that the company does, in fact, use collected voice data to serve ads:

“If you ask Alexa to order paper towels or to play a song on Amazon Music, the record of that purchase or song play may inform relevant ads shown on Amazon or other sites where Amazon places ads,” said Amazon spokesperson Lauren Raemhild in an email to The Verge.

READ MORE: Amazon wants to make Alexa sound like your dead relatives

To add to that, Raemhild ensured that Amazon isn’t sharing any actual voice recordings. “Developers get the information necessary to fulfill your requests with their skills…We do not share our customers’ personal information to third-party skills without the customer’s consent,” she continued.

The researchers call for more transparency around the data collection of smart speakers. They call smart speakers “black-box devices” that lack an interface to allow researchers to see what kind of data is collected.

Basically, we’re supposed to trust that Amazon acts ethically with the tons of data it collects using smart speakers.

But, to be fair, people that willingly invite a “smart speaker” from one of the biggest tech companies in the world into their homes likely aren’t too concerned by the company hoarding data collected through the speaker.

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Contributing writer with a passion for gaming and tech. Probably getting wrecked by some kids in Rocket League.


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