Starting today, Amazon’s AI assistant will respond to the voice command “Alexa, delete what I said today,” the company announced today. The AI assistant will soon also respond to the voice command “Alexa, delete what I just said” to get rid of individual recordings in the U.S., a spokesperson told VentureBeat in an email.
Amazon also today introduced the Echo Show 5, a scaled-down version of its flagship smart display.
The ability to quickly get rid of recordings is likely attractive to people concerned about Amazon’s privacy protections. Last year, a woman reported that Alexa recorded a conversation with her husband and then sent it to her husband’s employee, an event that attracted questions from the U.S. Senate. In December 2018, an Alexa user in Germany said they were given access to more than 1,000 voice recordings from another user.
An Amazon spokesperson told VentureBeat the new feature was added as part of Amazon’s commitment to privacy, but the news comes a day after the Anti-Eavesdropping Act (AB 1395) passed the California State Assembly. The law will require makers of ambient listening devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home speakers to receive consent before recording voices.
Illinois lawmakers nearly passed a law last month to make obtaining voice recordings without consent illegal.
Easier ways to delete recordings also allow users to get rid of queries they don’t want others in their household to see and makes it potentially less likely prosecutors will seek Alexa recordings as evidence in a crime. A judge last year ordered Amazon to hand over recordings as evidence in a double homicide.
Even though these voice commands will not include “Alexa, delete everything I’ve said,” it’s an improvement over the current situation, which requires users to delete each individual recording one at a time. You can more easily delete your entire voice history by visiting the Alexa Privacy page on the Amazon website.
Each of the AI assistants made by the world’s largest tech companies saves voice recordings to carry out speech-to-text translations and extract intent from user queries and commands.
In addition to improvements to language understanding, voice recordings can be used to improve localization in order to better understand accents and dialects or to do things like predict a person’s emotional state or use synthesizers to imitate the sound of a person’s voice.
Amazon is reportedly building a wearable device that detects human emotion from people’s voices, sources told Bloomberg last week.
Read this story to learn how to delete your recordings from Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, Samsung’s Bixby, or others.
Among other privacy intrusion claims Amazon faces right now, last Wednesday a bipartisan group of progressive and conservative members of the U.S. House Oversight and Reform Committee got behind the idea of a national facial recognition moratorium.
During the meeting, Amazon shareholders rejected proposals to halt the sale of Rekognition to governments and require a civil rights review of the technology that’s been found more likely to misidentify people of color as criminals than white people.
Rekognition was a consistent topic of conversation at the hearing, during which Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-CA) called the Amazon shareholder votes motivation to act quickly.
Earlier this month, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors placed a ban on facial recognition software use by police or city departments, and similar bans are being considered in nearby Oakland and Berkeley.