Amazon Echo Frames

Warning: *privacy not included with this product

Amazon Echo Frames

Amazon
Bluetooth

Review date: Nov. 8, 2021

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Mozilla says

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People voted: Super creepy

"Smart audio glasses" are a thing. These spectacles come with two beamforming microphones and four microspeakers and let you talk to Alexa hands free. Amazon says you'll get two hours of talk time or four hours of listening time per charge. And the "open ear audio" means your ears can hear what the glasses are playing but, maybe, hopefully, others mostly can't. Another maybe, hopefully, [is] with the two microphones on these glasses, [which] are designed to [respond to] the voice of the person wearing them and no one else. The even bigger question might be, just how nerdy do these smart glasses make you look?

What could happen if something goes wrong?

Amazon proudly states they are not in the business of selling your personal information to others, which is good. However, a good question to ask is, why would Amazon need to sell your data when they have their own advertising and retail juggernaut to use your data to sell you more stuff? Because Amazon is in the business of selling you more stuff. This means Amazon collects a whole lot of data on you — records of your shopping habits, Alexa search requests, the music you stream, the podcasts you listen to, when you turn your lights on and off, when you lock your doors, and on and on and on. These Amazon Echo Frames come with Alexa, as well as Google Assistant and Siri, options for voice assistants. They are really designed to be used with Alexa though.

What's good with Alexa? They make it possible to automatically delete voice recordings immediately after they are processed. That's a nice feature after the controversy around human reviewers listening in to Alexa voice recordings. However, Amazon says when you delete your voice recordings, they still can keep data of the interactions those recordings triggered. So, if you buy a pregnancy test through Amazon Alexa, they won't forget you bought that pregnancy test just because you ask them to delete the voice recording of that purchase. That record of the purchase is data they have on you going forward and may use to target you with ads for more stuff.

And then there are Alexa Skills, those little apps you use to interact with Alexa. These Skills can be developed by just about anyone with the, uhm, skill. And with too many of the Skills, third-party privacy policies are misleading, incomplete or simply nonexistent, according to one recent study.When your data is processed by an Alexa Skill, deleting your voice recordings doesn’t delete the data the developer of that Skill collects on you. With over 100,000 Alexa Skills out there, many of them developed by third parties, now your data is floating around in places you might never have imagined.

These days Alexa is built into everything from your Echo Frames, to your kids' toys, to your headphones, and thermostats. And while Amazon doesn't sell your personal information, they sure do use the heck out of it to target you with more stuff to buy.

Tips to protect yourself

  • Manage your Alexa privacy settings
  • Turn the microphone off when you do not need it
  • Regularly delete your voice history or set an auto-deletion of the old voice data
  • Minimize usage of Alexa Skills to only the most trusted ones
  • When using Amazon Skills, be mindful that they are not operating under Amazon's privacy policy. Better not share sensitive data with Skills' developers.
mobile Privacy warning Security A.I.

Can it snoop on me? information

Camera

Device: No

App: Yes

Microphone

Device: Yes

App: Yes

Tracks location

Device: Yes

App: Yes

What can be used to sign up?

What data does the company collect?

How does the company use this data?

Amazon says they do not sell your personal information. They combine your voice data with third-party data to answer your requests as well as to train Alexa's speech recognition. You can choose to not save any voice recordings, but it will cost you some features.

While voice recordings won't be used for ad personalization, the transcripts of recordings, and the list of actions that Alexa did in response to your voice commands, may be.

Amazon uses personal information for purposes such as advertisement, recommendation and personalisation. Some personal data may be shared with the third parties. Amazon provides third-party advertisers with information that allows them to serve you more targeted ads, though it claims to not use information that personally identifies you. Instead, Amazon uses an advertising identifier like a cookie or other device identifier. The company also promises it does not "knowingly collect personal information from children" under 13 without parental consent.

How can you control your data?

You can review and delete your voice recordings, one by one, by date range, or all at once. You can also set up an auto-deletion to automatically delete recordings older than 3 or 18 months. You can choose to not save any voice recordings, at the cost of some features. If you choose not to have any voice recordings saved, the text transcripts of your requests will be still retained for 30 days, after which they will be automatically deleted.

Note that even when audio or text records are deleted, Amazon may still retain other data concerning your interactions, such as all records of actions Alexa took in response to your request. They say this allows them to do things like continue to provide your reminders, timers, and alarms, process your orders, remember the things you've taught Alexa, and show your shopping and to-do lists and messages sent through Alexa Communications.This makes deleting the records largely unpractical, privacy-wise. It also means that an Amazon algorithm may still be targeting your ads based on your past requests.

If your request was processed by an Alexa skill, deleting your voice recordings does not delete any information that was authorized to be given to and retained by the developer of that skill. Skill developers do not receive voice recordings, but they may be receiving recordings' transcripts or records of actions Alexa took in response to your requests. This is problematic, because a big share of more than 100,000 skills are developed by third parties that are not necessarily bound by Amazon’s privacy policies. The research by North Carolina State University found that "23.3% of 1,146 skills that requested access to privacy-sensitive data either didn't have privacy policies or their privacy policies were misleading or incomplete. For example, some requested private information even though their privacy policies stated they were not requesting private information." In addition to misleading privacy policies, issues included things like developers being able to claim fake identity ('Samsung', 'Apple'), multiple skills sharing the same Alexa trigger words, etc.

Amazon collects data from third parties about you, to target ads better: "Some third-parties may provide Amazon pseudonymized information about you (such as demographic information or sites where you have been shown ads) from offline and online sources that we may use to provide you more relevant and useful advertising."

Amazon's privacy statement is not entirely clear regarding deletion rightstransparent regarding deletion rights and retention details for data. It says that some groups of people are not able to request access to or deletion of data. They are also sending you through the Customer Service bureaucracy to check your deletion rights: "To the extent required by applicable law, you may have the right to request access to or delete your personal information. If you wish to do any of these things, please contact Customer Service. Depending on your data choices, certain services may be limited or unavailable.

What is the company’s known track record of protecting users’ data?

Needs Improvement

In August 2020, security researchers from Check Point pointed out a flaw in Amazon's Alexa smart home devices that could have allowed hackers access to personal information and conversation history. Amazon promptly fixed the bug.

In October 2020, Amazon fired an employee for leaking customer email addresses to an unnamed third party.

In October 2019, Forbes reported that Amazon employees were listening to Amazon Cloud Cam recording, to train its AI algorythm.

In April 2019, it was revealed that thousands of employees, many of whom are contract workers and some not even directly employed by Amazon, had access to both voice and text transcripts of Alexa interactions.

In 2018, Amazon's Echo Dot device recorded private conversation and sent it to random contact. The recording consisted of 1,700 audio files.

Can this product be used offline?

No

User-friendly privacy information?

Yes

In addition to general privacy notice, Amazon provides a privacy FAQ with answers to key questions about Alexa.

Links to privacy information

Does this product meet our Minimum Security Standards? information

Yes

Encryption

Yes

Encryption in transit and at rest.

Strong password

Yes

Password-protected Amazon account is needed to set up Alexa.

Security updates

Yes

Manages vulnerabilities

Yes

Amazon has a bug bounty program.

Privacy policy

Yes

Does the product use AI? information

Yes

Alexa provides some information about its AI at the Alexa FAQ and the Amazon Science webpages.

Is this AI untrustworthy?

Can’t Determine

What kind of decisions does the AI make about you or for you?

Amazon Alexa uses natural language processing to understand you and to generate answers to your requests.

Is the company transparent about how the AI works?

Yes

Does the user have control over the AI features?

Yes


News

'Alexa, are you invading my privacy?' – the dark side of our voice assistants
The Guardian
One day in 2017, Alexa went rogue. When Martin Josephson, who lives in London, came home from work, he heard his Amazon Echo Dot voice assistant spitting out fragmentary commands, seemingly based on his previous interactions with the device. It appeared to be regurgitating requests to book train tickets for journeys he had already taken and to record TV shows that he had already watched. Josephson had not said the wake word – “Alexa” – to activate it and nothing he said would stop it. It was, he says, “Kafkaesque”.
Amazon Echo’s privacy issues go way beyond voice recordings
The Conversation
Whether it is the amount of data they collect or the fact that they reportedly pay employees and, at times, external contractors from all over the world to listen to recordings to improve accuracy, the potential is there for sensitive personal information to be leaked through these devices.
Study Reveals Extent of Privacy Vulnerabilities With Amazon’s Alexa
NC State University
Issues range from misleading privacy policies to the ability of third-parties to change the code of their programs after receiving Amazon approval.
Alexa vulnerability is a reminder to delete your voice history
CNET
If you haven't been regularly deleting your voice history with Amazon's voice assistant, Alexa, you could have a good reason to start: a recently fixed vulnerability that would've exposed all your conversations with the smart speaker.
Security Researchers Probed 90,194 Amazon Alexa Skills—The Results Were Shocking
Forbes
A research team comprising experts from North Carolina State University (NCSU) and the Ruhr-University Bochum in Germany recently undertook a study of Amazon Alexa skills.
‘Millions of people’s data is at risk’ — Amazon insiders sound alarm over security
Politico
YOUR ORDER HISTORY. Your credit card information. Even your intimate health data. Amazon is amassing an empire of data as the online retailer ventures into ever more areas of our lives. But the company's efforts to protect the information it collects are inadequate, according to insiders who warn the company's security shortfalls expose users' information to potential breaches, theft and exploitation.
Listen: Next in Tech | Episode 38: Datacenter and Infrastructure Markets in China
S&P Global
Every region on the globe has their own characteristics, but the high levels of digitization in China create interesting requirements. Perkins Liu, senior research analyst, joins host Eric Hanselman to explore the dynamics of the market and the forces at work.
Have an Echo device? 5 security settings to check now
USA Today
If you already own an Echo, prepared to be shocked. Several of my conversations Alexa recorded had nothing to do with playing music, getting news, or ordering items on Amazon.
Review: Amazon Echo Frames
Wired
The tech giant’s new smart glasses are an innovative way to accomplish very little.
Amazon Echo Frames review: listen to these specs
The Verge
Great in concept, but there’s a limit to what Alexa can do on a phone

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