Amazon updates Alexa features amid privacy concerns, calls for investigation

E-commerce giant Amazon announced new privacy protections for its Alexa-enabled devices on Wednesday, following complaints that some were violating a children’s privacy act.

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In a press release, the company announced a new feature that will make it easier to delete recordings across all products featuring Alexa. Beginning on Wednesday, by saying “Alexa, delete everything I said today,” the device will delete the corresponding recordings.

Amazon said soon customers will be able to delete their last request by saying “Alexa, delete what I just said.” The company will also launch a “privacy hub” to give customers more information about what is collected and stored.

Users are also able to delete voice recordings at Alexa Privacy Settings or in the Alexa app. Amazon detailed the new privacy control features as it announced the Amazon Echo Show 5.

Earlier this month a group of child protection and advocacy groups filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) alleging the e-commerce giant’s Echo Dot Kids – a voice-controlled computing device with parental controls – violates certain children’s privacy protection policies.

Similar to the company’s other devices, the Echo Dot is activated with a command word, but this specific device is geared toward children – making it subject to different privacy regulations.

The groups say children’s conversations are recorded and stored in the cloud until deleted by parents. And even then, parents are allegedly unable to delete some, or all, of the recordings.

The group asked the FTC to investigate. At the time, Amazon said the device is “compliant with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.”

An Amazon spokesperson said on Wednesday that the rollout of the new features was not connected to the complaint, and the features "have been in the works for some time."

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This is not the first time Amazon’s smart devices have been questioned over privacy concerns. Last month a report surfaced that Amazon workers listen to and transcribe recordings. In response, the company said it only annotates an “extremely small number of interactions” in order to improve customer experience.

Last year, Amazon’s Alexa Echo reportedly recorded and shared a private conversation.