Amazon records and analyzes conversations
When Amazon introduced the voice-controlled assistant, the world was excited. After all, it is a good idea, because with Alexa you can play music, set an alarm clock or manage calendars, all voice-controlled. If you then buy so-called "skills" in the Amazon Store, the virtual assistant can even control smart home devices, games and messages or take over communication with a bank. So at first glance, it's a pretty useful product. But why is it not as flawless as it seems?
By now it is well known that Amazon records and analyzes the conversations. This should have been obvious, but the device itself records some conversations that were not commands to Alexa, without the users knowing anything about it.
The people who bought this and are now outraged are actually to blame for their own stupidity. After all, it was to be expected from Amazon. Even though Amazon says it's an "extremely small sample," it's still outrageous. Imagine for a moment that you are talking about private things. You talk to your best friend about things you wouldn't trust anyone else with, or about confidential information in your business, and now this sample affects you and there's someone listening in.
It is as if we have traveled back to the Stasi surveillance era, only with a business model, because you pay to be bugged. There is no more profitable and at the same time more voluntary surveillance!
Now the Federal Intelligence Service and the Office for the Protection of the Constitution also want direct access to the conversations. Amazon is to be forced to give the security services access to the devices such as Alexa. At the moment, the German authorities still have to ask the American security services for access to the data, because in America, the corporations have to cooperate with the security services and give them access to the files.
Now some speculative questions come to mind, because when Amazon tells me it's an "extremely small sample," who's to say they're telling the truth? We have often had the experience lately that it is better not to trust large American corporations like Facebook.
So does that mean that I could theoretically be bugged by Alexa all the time?
Another question: Amazon says that they record and analyze the conversations to gain speech enhancement. This may be true, but who can assure me that these conversations and the information they contain are not sold on to others, Amazon for example? We know that with the Facebook example, the information was sold on to Cambridge Analytica, for example, even when Facebook said they wouldn't do that.
In addition, the data is stored in the Amazon Cloud. And the data stored in Amazon is completely evaluated.
The following is what heise.de writes on the subject of data protection with cloud providers:
"Amazon can access, use and retain all files to provide the service and enforce the terms of the agreement, according to the terms of service, and you give Amazon all the permissions it needs to do so. Those permissions include, for example, the rights to copy files for backup purposes, modify files to allow access in different formats, or use information about files to organize them for the user and provide access. In addition, Amazon collects and stores all information entered or otherwise submitted on the website."
In addition, Amazon has to pass on all data to the NSA according to American law, and they certainly don't just want to improve voice control.
If you are about to buy such a device, or have already bought it, you should weigh the pros and cons. In the end, it's all about our convenience, because I can set an alarm clock even without a voice-controlled assistant. Do you really want to take the risk of being monitored and eavesdropped on just so you have to move your fingers less?