Warning: *privacy not included with this product
Amazon Fire TV with Alexa Voice Remote
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.
What can be used to sign up?
What data does the company collect?
Name, email, phone number, address
How does the company use this data?
How can you control your data?
What is the company’s known track record of protecting users’ data?
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?
User-friendly privacy information?
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?
Uses encryption in transit and at rest.
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
Is this AI untrustworthy?
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?
Does the user have control over the AI features?
Got a comment? Let us hear it.