Amazon Echo Glow

Amazon Echo Glow

Amazon
Wi-Fi

Review date: Nov. 8, 2021

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Mozilla says

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People voted: Super creepy

Amazon's Echo Glow is a little round smart lamp designed to be paired up with Alexa devices like the Echo Dot or Echo Show. It can change color, ask Alexa to set to music for a dance party with a light show. There's something called a Rainbow Time that can give visual reminders as the colors change to help them stay on track in the morning or before bedtime. And apparently, it's even "Certified for Human". What does that mean? No idea, but Amazon says it requires no patience. Uhm, ok.

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 and your child more stuff? Because Amazon is in the business of selling you and your child more stuff. They do say they won’t serve third-party interest-based ads to your child under the age of 13 when they are using an Amazon child profile. So that’s something.

Amazon hopes to collect data on your child with your parental consent. They say they can collect things like name, birthdate, contact information (including phone numbers and e-mail addresses), voice, photos, videos, location, and certain activity and device information and identifier of your child when they use this device. They use this information on your child to, among other things, provide personalizing offerings and recommendations. Yes, they’re learning about your child to target your child with more stuff they’ll want you to buy.

And Amazon's Echo Glow doesn't come with a microphone or speakers. By itself, it's really just a pretty light. But it is designed to be paried up with an Alexa-enabled device to control all its features. So, what's good with Alexa? Well, they do make it possible to automatically delete voice recordings immediately after they are processed. So it’s good to teach your kid to say, “Hey Alexa, delete everything I said today” after they’ve played with Alexa. 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. And transcripts of recordings, as well as records of actions Alexa took in response to your child’s request may still be stored by Alexa services (like Alexa Skills), even if you have not given permission to collect your child’s personal information.

And then there are those 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, there is no privacy policy available. 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.

What’s the worst that could happen? Well, Amazon could get to know your kid's personal information pretty well and try to sell them stuff starting at a young age. Amazon will track your kid's habits unless you opt out--and if you opt out, that means you'll likely lose services and features you probably don't want to lose. You can request Amazon delete your child's data, which is nice. The only way to be absolutely sure all this data is deleted--both your childs and your own--is to delete your Amazon account completely. All in all, a product that can potentially collect this much data on young child when paired with an Alexa-enabled device, even with the protections Amazon puts in place, still worries us enough to say this device could come with *Privacy Not Included.

Tips to protect yourself

  • Set Alexa parental controls
  • Opt your child out of as much personal data collection as possible
  • Teach your child how to say, “Hey Alexa, delete everything I said today” after they're done playing with Alexa.
mobile Privacy warning Security A.I.

Can it snoop on me? information

Camera

Device: No

App: No

Microphone

Device: No

App: Yes

Tracks location

Device: Yes

App: Yes

What can be used to sign up?

You can pair it with any compatible Alexa device to control color and brightness with your voice.

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 personalization. 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?

Amazon make available controls so that you can remain involved in your child's use of Amazon services. You can review or delete Child Personal Information. Please note that if you withdraw the permission you have provided for your child or request deletion of Child Personal Information, certain services and features may no longer be available.

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 algorithm.

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?

Yes

User-friendly privacy information?

Yes

There is a children's privacy disclosure

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

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.: https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=201602230 https://www.amazon.science/tag/alexa

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

What is Amazon Kids on Alexa, and how do I turn it on?
TechRadar
Switch on parental controls so your little ones can use an Amazon Echo unsupervised.
'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.

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