TikTok star discovers the shocking things Alexa records about you
A TikTok star who goes by "my.data.not.yours" shared a video documenting her surprise when she discovered how much data Amazon has collected about her from smart speakers and smart bulbs. She claims to have found 3,534 voice files logging her interactions with the Alexa-enabled smart devices in her home. She also found that her location and contacts were collected. Here are more details.
The TikTok user said she has three Amazon Echo smart speakers and some smart bulbs. She requested Amazon to send her all data they have on her and received a ZIP file. Once extracted, the contents of the archive comprised several folders, including an audio one containing thousands of voice clips collected from the smart speakers. The TikTok star described them as "so scary."
Although my.data.not.yours shared details about just the audio recordings from Alexa devices, the ZIP file she claims to have received from Amazon had many other subfolders. It contained subfolders like Alerts, Answers, Audio and Transcription, Automation, Calendars, Contacts, Messages, Communication Preferences, Devices, Feedback, Lists, Location, Music, Preferences, Routines, Settings, Shopping, Skills, Smart Home, and Video.
Speaking about Amazon's location collection practices for the Alexa-enabled speakers, the TikTok star said she "didn't know that they had [her location], I could have assumed that they have, but I don't love that they have" it. As for the contacts, she claimed she didn't remember syncing them with Alexa or Amazon. In summary, she said, "I'm not totally comfortable with everything they have."
However, an Amazon spokesperson said, "We give customers transparency and control over their Alexa experience. Customers can easily review and delete their voice recordings, or choose not to have them saved at all, at any time." Amazon explained that contacts are collected from the Alexa mobile app to enable hands-free calling and messaging. This feature can be disabled if the customer desires to.
Amazon's spokesperson said location data is collected from the Alexa mobile app with user consent. Amazon uses the data to provide relevant information regarding weather, traffic updates, and restaurant recommendations. The Alexa app's access to location data can also be controlled from the Permissions menu. The TikTok video elicited Amazon's response probably because it has accrued over 2.7 million views.
We believe the TikTok user's video documenting her reaction to Amazon's data collection practices isn't surprising. Voice processing and AI-enabled robots are programmed to collect data and autonomously improve the user experience over time. What surprised us was the comments section where several people seemed unaware that Amazon was collecting private information with their consent. Reading privacy policies and user agreements has its perks.