Amazon Seems to have Access to the Addresses of Alexa Users

In a recent report from Bloomberg, it has been pointed out that Alexa can come out with the address location of its users. The source used for finding out the address of a person is tied to the location data present in the recordings from Alexa.

Earlier, Bloomberg had exposed the issue where some of the Amazon employees were actually listening to a sample of the Alexa – User Interactions. Although listening to and analyzing a very small sample of Alexa – User conversations were as a part of product improvement purposes, this revelation did create a lot of tension among Alexa users with respect to privacy. However, Amazon did assert then that there was no way in which a person listening to a recording could tie that recording back to the user.

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An Amazon Echo Plus | Source – Amazon Press

Matt Day, Bloomberg News, said that attached to the video recordings are location data which are tied back to the home address which the user registered while buying the device or the one which Amazon derived. Hence, if someone wanted to, they could actually pair audio clips with the address of the user.

Matt said that Amazon did give a statement on this issue. Amazon assured that they have tight control over who has access to the user data. Auditing the data regularly and having a strict no-tolerance policy for those employees who try to misuse the data for any non-work related purposes are few of the methods implemented by Amazon to ensure that user data is not exploited in any way.

Matt also added that there is no indication that employees are abusing the system as of now. The bigger concern in this story revolves around the fact that a considerable number of employees has access to information surrounding the customer, This, by the way, is a serious concern.

Catching up on the issue, Business Insider also reported that Amazon employees can use the data points from the recordings and put them into entities such as the Google Maps to trace back the address of the user.

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Top view of an Echo Plus

Our thoughts on Amazon being able to deduce the user addresses from Alexa Interactions

Even though, to some extent, we can make peace with the fact that the development team listening to Alexa conversations are for further refinement and advancement of Alexa’s behavior, the fact that the data tied to these recordings can be used to find out the location of the user does raise some serious questions with respect to user privacy.

We could also be sure of the fact that Amazon will never misuse any of this information. However, from a user perspective, it could turn out to be a reason to not buy Alexa Enabled devices.

Storing the address information of users is nothing new to an E-Commerce Giant as the Amazon. Customers who order stuff online save their addresses most of the time in order to avoid the pain of typing it in every time they order something. But there is a considerable difference between a customer actually giving up his address on his own and a group of strangers digging it up by using geographical data tied to the recordings.

More than finding out the address, it is context on which the address retrieval is based that is more of a concern here. Amazon employees listening to these conversations and at the same time having the data to locate the address of the user in the conversation – that is something which no consumer would want to be a part of.

Currently, there is a section of consumers who say ‘No’ to Smart Home Devices solely due to privacy. For those users, this revelation further increases their distrust associated with Smart Home Devices.