Amazon may be using Alexa to send you targeted ads

It looks like Amazon is using its speakers to send you targeted ads, according to a recent report online. To collect the data needed to serve you personalized ads, Amazon has shared transcripts of your conversation with its smart assistant Alexa with third-party companies.

This new report was produced by researchers from the University of Washington, University of California – Davis, University of California – Irvine and Northeastern University. They published information online and said Amazon and third parties share people’s interactions with more than 40 advertisers. This data informs Amazon’s advertising partners about your interests and then influences the advertisements you receive on your Alexa speakers and across the web.

Now, targeted ads aren’t technically bad; it’s simply how companies access this data and how transparent they are about what they collect and how they use it. Amazon responded to the reports by saying that, like other companies, Alexa uses voice data to influence the ads it produces across different mediums. It’s in the same vein as if you were requesting a song through Alexa or buying an item on Amazon.com. Amazon then uses this information to help you organize a more personalized experience.

Amazon also has a way to opt out of targeted ads and specific data collection while you are using its products. Amazon customers go to their account, select Advertising Preferences Page, and disable ads. This setting not only affects the website, but also any Amazon services or products connected to your profile. For more detailed settings, you can check the privacy settings in the Alexa app on your mobile device to manage voice data collected while using your products.

An Amazon Echo on a table between some books and a cup of coffee.
Amazon

Some of the controversy over these reports stems from the mystery of exactly how much data and information is being shared. Researchers have shown that even though a significant amount of data is shared with third-party partners, and those partners pay up to 30 times more for voice data, the amount of data shared is less than what would come from a smart TV or virtual reality. helmet. Additionally, only transcriptions are shared with partners, not the full raw vocal snippets.

Amazon spokeswoman Lauren Raemhild said the conclusions drawn from the report are inaccurate inferences and speculation. She says Amazon “does not sell our customers’ personal information[…].” Raemhild also said there are practices to ensure third-party developers explain how much data they collect and for what purpose. The researchers noted that more transparency is needed from Amazon and other companies.

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