Sen. Coons examines Amazon's privacy and data security practices for Alexa devices

Sen. Coons examines Amazon's privacy and data security practices for Alexa devices
© Getty Images

Sen. Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsDemocrats want White House hopefuls to cool it on Biden attacks Senators revive effort to create McCain human rights commission Senate Dem to reintroduce bill with new name after 'My Little Pony' confusion MORE (D-Del.) is looking into Amazon’s privacy and data security practices in regards to its Alexa devices, sending a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff BezosJeffrey (Jeff) Preston BezosBiden criticizes Amazon for paying Jeff Bezos in corporate taxes Hillicon Valley: YouTube under fire | FCC gets tough on robocalls | Maine governor signs strict privacy bill | Amazon says delivery drones coming in 'months' Amazon: Drone deliveries to homes expected 'within months' MORE on Thursday to request information.

The letter includes request for information on what type of consumer data Amazon retains and how much control customers have over it.

ADVERTISEMENT

“The increasing popularity of in-home, Internet-connected devices and voice-activated technologies raises questions about the types of data they collect, store, and share, as well as the degree to which consumers control their personal information,” Coons wrote in the letter to Bezos.

“Companies like Amazon that offer services through these devices should address these concerns by prioritizing consumer privacy and protecting sensitive personal information,” he also wrote.

The letter is the second that Coons has sent within the last year to Amazon on its consumer data collection practices.

The letter in 2018 was sent along with former Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeJeff Flake becoming Harvard fellow Democrats needle GOP on standing up to Trump Amash gets standing ovation at first town hall after calling for Trump's impeachment MORE (R-Ariz.). Amazon then responded by noting that "'customers can review and listen to the voice recordings associated with their account in the Alexa app, and delete them individually or all at once, which also deletes them from our server.’”

However, Coons wrote Thursday that he was “very concerned by reports that suggest that text transcriptions of these audio records are preserved indefinitely on Amazon’s servers, and users are not given the option to delete these text transcripts.”

Coons added that “the inability to delete a transcript of an audio recording renders the option to delete the recording largely inconsequential and puts users’ privacy at risk.”

Coons asked Bezos to respond to questions on the types of data that Amazon collects and stores from consumer interactions with Alexa devices and gave Bezos until June 30 to respond to his questions. 

A spokesperson for Amazon told The Hill on Thursday that the company is "reviewing the letter from the Senator," adding that customers have options for reviewing voice recordings from Alexa devices.

"Customers have complete control over the voice recordings, and can review and delete voice recordings through the Alexa app and at www.Amazon.com/AlexaPrivacy," the spokesperson said. "When a customer deletes a voice recording, we also delete the corresponding text transcript associated with their account from our main Alexa systems and many subsystems, and have work underway to delete it from remaining subsystems.”