Many smart-speaker owners don't realize it, but Amazon keeps a copy of everything Alexa records after it hears its name. Apple's Siri, and until recently Google's Assistant, by default also keep recordings to help train their artificial intelligences.
So come with me on an unwelcome walk down memory lane. I listened to four years of my Alexa archive and found thousands of fragments of my life: spaghetti-timer requests, joking houseguests and random snippets of "Downton Abbey." There were even sensitive conversations that somehow triggered Alexa's "wake word" to start recording, including my family discussing medication and a friend conducting a business deal.
Alexa's voice archive made headlines most recently when Bloomberg discovered Amazon employees listen to recordings to train its artificial intelligence. Amazon acknowledged some of those employees also have access to location information for the devices that made the recordings. [Emphasis mine]
Every kind of appliance now is becoming a data-collection device. My Chamberlain MyQ garage opener lets the company keep - again, indefinitely - a record of every time my door opens or closes. My Sonos speakers, by default, track what albums, playlists or stations I've listened to, and when I press play, pause, skip or pump up the volume. At least they only hold on to my sonic history for six months.
And now the craziest part: After quizzing these companies about data practices, I learned most are sharing what's happening in my home with Amazon, too. Our data is the price of entry for devices that want to integrate with Alexa. Amazon's not only eavesdropping - it's tracking everything happening in your home.Amazon acknowledges it collects data about third-party devices even when you don't use Alexa to operate them. It says Alexa needs to know the "state" of your devices "to enable a great smart home experience." But keeping a record of this data is more useful to them than to us.