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Research finds that your Alexa might be using your voice data for targeted ads

When buying voice based assistants, one of the most common fears amongst people is that of privacy. Well, the issue has once again come into light by a joint team of researchers from the UC Irvine, Northeastern University, University of Washington, and UC Davis.

Led by Umer Iqbal, the research is titled 'Your Echos are heard' and shows how voice assistants like Amazon's 'Alexa' are collecting your voice data from interactions and using it to show targeted ads.

To carry out the report, the researchers designed a framework which measures online data collection. Once that was done, they created various different personas with specific interest, these personas interacted with Alexa. The results showed that each persona was shown off-platform interest relevant ads thus concluding that the interactions are being used for advertisements.

The report claims that once data is collected it is sold off to as many as 41 of Amazon's partners, and is further used to serve targeted and interest based ads not only on Alexa but off-platform as well. Coming directly from the users, the data is proven to be more effective in advertising thus has bids that are 30 times higher than other forms of advertising data.

The report when released caused a wave of tension amongst Alexa users, Amazon however was quick to reply and counter claimed that it does not use data from the interactions users have with Alexa. They said that the advertising data mechanics on Amazon is similar to that of Amazon's e-commerce or Amazon play; wherein if you ask Alexa to make a purchase from a particular site, the record of that purchase is what triggers relevant ads.

Apart from that, Amazon also claims that the research is flawed and that most conclusions in the research are based on inaccurate inferences. "We are not in the business of selling our customers personal information" they added.


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