That friendly voice coming from your home speaker device may be keeping tabs on you. According to a new report from the website The Information, Amazon is considering sharing transcripts of conversations with "Alexa" on its Echo home speaker with third party developers. The idea is to allow developers that provide apps and software to Echo to better understand consumer needs and improve service.
Amazon is also considering the move in order to compete with Google, which reportedly already shares data collected on its Google Home devices. Google is well-known for its constantly evolving data-mining techniques, but they come with a trade-off for consumers. "There's no question that there's a lot of utility in this type of data sharing," says Joseph Jerome with the Center for Democracy and Technology. "There's a reason that Google wants to collect a lot of that information and share that around, it's to know you better and to provide you with better services."
Jerome tells KTRH that people have grown accustomed to knowing some of their data is shared when they're on a computer or smartphone, but home speakers are still a new phenomenon. "It's very different in the context of basically a microphone in your bedroom that can pick up all sorts of stuff," he says. "I think we're really, as a society, trying to sort of readjust as to what the proper boundaries of these devices should be."
For its part, Amazon stresses that it does not share audio recordings of Echo conversations, nor does it sell user data to third parties. Nevertheless, once information gets out to one third party, it can quickly spread to others. "You really have this tangled web which I think leads to the general notion that a lot of consumers feel these days, that they are sort of overwhelmed and resigned to not really having control over their information," says Jerome.