Mozilla executive shocked to learn what Alexa has been recording

Posted May 31, 2019 by Tim Sandle
A security executive working at Mozilla has said he was shocked to discover that recordings of his family had been made by Alexa and were being stored by Amazon. He adds that users of Amazon's Alexa need to be aware.
The Amazon Echo smart speaker with Amazon s Alexa digital assistant.
The Amazon Echo smart speaker with Amazon's Alexa digital assistant.
Amazon / press
The concern has been raised by Alan Davidson, who is the vice-president of global policy, trust and security for Mozilla (who operate the Firefox browser). He found out that the Amazon Echo device had been recording conversations among his young children. This was discovered when Davidson examined the online records.
Speaking with Global News, Davidson said: “I was shocked honestly and my family was shocked to see these recordings of our young children from years ago that are in the cloud and stored about us. It’s not to say that something was done wrong, or unlawfully...But users have no idea — they have no idea this data is out there and they don’t know how it’s going to be used in the future either.”
Davidson contends that any manufacturer of Internet equipped hardware need to provide any customer with more “granular” consent options in terms of how any personal information is collected, analysed and stored.
READ MORE: Amazon staff may be listening in on Alexa recordings
It also stands that employees at Amazon have the option to listen in to voice commands given by users to the digital assistant Alexa, in the form of instructions ("Alexa, turn on the lights") and questions ("Amazon, where is the nearest clinic").
However, Mark Ryland, who is the chief security officer for Amazon Web Services, responded that Amazon is explicit in stating consent is a necessary part of any person partaking in the Alexa experience. Ryland also notes that any customer can delete any collected data as they choose.
Ryland adds that “Alexa is listening for a key word — an ‘awake’ word — that alerts the system you want to interact with it in some fashion...There’s a light on the device that tells you it is active and subsequent sound in the room is then streamed to the cloud.”
The point Davidson makes is that not that many users of such products are aware of that what they say is being recorded, or how it used, and with the ability to delete some conversations. It remains that stopping Alexa (or an equivalent device from recording in the first place) is not an option.