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Amazon Considering Giving Developers Access to Alexa Transcripts

According to the Information, Amazon is considering giving access to private transcript data from its Alexa devices to third-party developers, raising privacy concerns for its users.

Amazon’s Echo System was one of the first mass-marketed home assistants available. However, Amazon doesn’t allow developers access to everything users say, which is something that other home assistants, such as Google Home, does; with Apple moving into the market as well, Amazon may not be willing to risk losing its lead.

At the moment, developers creating apps that will use Alexa are only allowed to see non-identifying information, such as location data, how often users talk to their devices, and how many times a specific “skill” is used. If full transcripts were visible to developers, the greater amount of data could be put to use in order to improve and fine-tune their applications.

Skill developer Ahmed Bouzid, an ex-product head for the Alexa team, said that the current access only gives developers “70 percent of what they need to know.” However, according to the Information, some teams already have full access to the data that Alexa gathers; it is unclear who is exempt from the standard limitations or why.

If Amazon were to go ahead with handing over full transcripts, it would certainly cause unease with users aware of the potential breach of privacy. Not only could developers see exactly what they have been saying or searching for, but anyone malevolent enough to hack their systems could do as well.

Last year, then Director of National Intelligence James Clapper warned that not only would such developments “pose challenges to our cyber defenses and operational tradecraft but also create new opportunities for our own intelligence collectors.”

Amazon’s previous actions don’t seem to bode well for those worried about their privacy. In April, Amazon’s newly launched Echo Look contained a “Style Check” feature, that would let strangers judge your outfits by uploading photos of them to the internet, causing some to remark on the strangeness of such an app.