Amazon Fire TV with Alexa Voice Remote

Warning: *privacy not included with this product

Amazon Fire TV with Alexa Voice Remote

Amazon
Wi-Fi

Review date: Nov. 8, 2021

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Mozilla says

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People voted: Super creepy

If you are a lover of all things Amazon Prime--video, music, free shipping--these could be the streaming media devices for you. The Fire TV family has grown to include more than streaming sticks; there's now Fire TV Smart TVs and soundbars too. Stream your Prime video and audio as well as Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, and more. Alexa controls everything by voice while ordering you a pizza for that binge-watching session. Here's to taking couch potato to the next level.

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? This means Amazon collects a whole lot of data on you — records of your TV viewing habits, 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. And Amazon's Fire TV can collect a whole lot of data on your device usage, app usage, and over-the-air viewing data.

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.

What’s the worst that could happen? Well, Amazon could learn all the shows you like to watch and start targeting you with ads for all the other streaming services out there. You can't resist and join them all, sending you into bankruptcy because there are so many dang streaming services these days! If you want Amazon to stop trying to sell you more stuff, you can (and should!) opt-out of some data collection and processing.

Tips to protect yourself

  • Use Alexa as little as possible.
  • Review your privacy setting and opt out of as much data collection and processing as you feel comfortable with.
  • Remember that Amazon privacy preferences are device specific, so you need to set your privacy preferences on all your Amazon devices individually. What, you had nothing better to do this weekend, right?
  • Customers can opt out of Amazon using personal data collected by the operating system of their device for customized marketing or product improvement.
  • Customers can also opt out of Amazon’s collection of data relating to the frequency and duration of use of third-party apps on Fire TV devices.
mobile Privacy warning Security A.I.

Can it snoop on me? information

Camera

Device: No

App: No

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.

Amazon may share information like the total number of hours Fire TV customers streamed on a developer’s app over a certain period of time, but they share that on an aggregate, not individual customer basis.

How can you control your data?

You can review and delete your Alexa 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.

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.

If you chose not to use Alexa with this product, your privacy could be better protected.

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 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 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?

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

Uses encryption in transit and at rest.

Strong password

Yes

Security updates

Yes

Manages vulnerabilities

Yes

Amazon has a bug bounty program, which means that anyone who finds a security issue and discloses it responsibly may get paid. https://hackerone.com/amazonvrp Security researchers can report a vulnerability here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=201909140

Privacy policy

Yes

Does the product use AI? information

Yes

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


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