Starting today, Alexa Privacy Hub will allow users of the AI assistant to opt-in to have their voice recordings deleted on a 3-month or 18-month basis.
New voice commands are also coming soon, like “Alexa, tell me what you heard” to review recordings and “Alexa, why did you do that?” to get an explanation for an action the AI assistant took.
The news was announced today in a presentation at Amazon headquarters in Seattle. Amazon VP of devices David Limp began the hardware event by highlighting ways Amazon is taking to satisfy people’s privacy concerns, including Home Mode, a feature coming to Ring security and home doorbell devices in November to automatically switch off cameras when you come home.
Today’s event comes just days after Google shared plans to make human review of Google Assistant voice recordings require opt-in by users.
With the release of the original Echo in 2015, Amazon and Alexa created the smart speaker category. Since then Amazon has continued to be the most popular smart speaker in the U.S. and one of Amazon’s best-selling products.
Alexa may also be the AI assistant best known for privacy violations.
In May 2018, a Portland woman reported that Alexa recorded a conversation between her and her husband, then sent it to one of his employees, while in December 2018 a German Alexa user said they were given access to voice recordings of 1,000 Alexa users.
Then this spring, Bloomberg reported and Amazon confirmed that some recordings obtained after use of the “Alexa” wake word were reviewed by human third-party contractors for annotation or transcription.
These incidents drew multiple inquiries from members of Congress, while state lawmakers in California and Illinois have considered requiring assistant makers to receive consent before collecting voice recordings.
A PricewaterhouseCoopers analysis and survey found that privacy concerns could hinder adoption of AI assistants, while this spring Microsoft found that more than 40% of digital assistants users are concerned with privacy, trust, and passive listening.
In response to privacy concerns, earlier this year Amazon introduced an option for users to make human review of voice recordings last month and an “Alexa, delete what I said today” voice command.