Amazon's Alexa Skims Off More Personal User Information Than Any Other Smart Assistant

A survey conducted over smart assistants reveals that the Amazon product Alexa collects more personal user information than any other smart assistant device.

Well, I guess there's no better way of introducing HAL 9000 to the real world. Sure, we named it Alexa and there's no true AI involved, but the undertones of nefarious behavior are being shared across both. Exaggeration aside, Alexa might require a bit more care than previously imagined by users. To be fair, we should have anticipated something like this for a while now. A very common topic of conversation nowadays is how targeted ads keep showing up as soon as users even mention a product out loud. Third party applications get access to personal information such as browser history and location data on a daily basis. Almost every piece of commonly used technology that can be connected to a Wi-Fi signal can also be used to further spy on people and extract information from them, whether they willingly consent or not.

Policies have been placed against such action by certain companies, with Apple's iOS 14 Tracking and Transparency features being a major recent example. The EU's constantly attempting measures to prevent third party companies from taking user data, with many of these attempts aimed at social media platforms such as Facebook. However, we should all cast our net a bit wider, or even a bit narrower, and zoom in on a commodity that's becoming increasingly common across residences: smart assistants. The likes of Amazon's Alexa, Siri, or Google Assistant can be found on devices such as the Amazon Echo Dot. More worrying is the fact that at least one iteration of them is always present on mobile devices. There really is no escaping them.

So, what sort of data is acquired. The survey, conducted by ReviewsOrg illustrated 8 different components of personal data: a user's name, time zone, address, phone number, payment info, age, personal interests, and personal description (the last two are gleamed from personal profiles). Of all the assistants, the only one to obtain all such information across the board is Alexa, with the smart assistant taking in the least amount of personal data being the Google Assistant. The three pieces of data taken by all smart assistants are names, time zones, and phone numbers.

The fact that Alexa obtains all such information, without even considering the fact that the smart assistant even has microphone access and can record virtually anything a user says, is worrying.

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