Smart speaker sales are continuing to grow at a rapid rate, but do the devices' abilities often come at the cost of user privacy? It’s a question that’s once again reared its head following reports that Amazon may give third-party developers access to audio recording transcripts from Alexa-powered devices.
According to The Information, the retail giant is considering opening up private transcript data as it looks to compete with an ever-increasing number of competitors releasing their own smart speakers.
Most Alexa developers only have access to non-identifying information, but allowing them to examine detailed user data could theoretically improve their software, thereby encouraging devs to create more skills for the platform.
While Amazon didn’t reveal its ultimate plans for sharing user data with third parties, it did give the following statement to The Verge: “When you use a skill, we provide the developer the information they need to process your request. We do not share customer identifiable information to third-party skills without the customer’s consent. We do not share audio recordings with developers.”
The Information writes that Amazon has refused to hand over data in the past due to its commitment to customer privacy. In a murder case last year, the company would not release anything the suspect’s Echo speaker logged on its servers. It eventually relented, but only after the accused man gave his consent.
The fact that Google Home does give developers access to voice recording transcripts has reportedly encouraged Amazon to do the same thing. The Information writes that some “whitelisted” devs already have access to the full Alexa user data, though it’s unclear how they are selected.