Amazon has admitted that it retains Alexa voice recordings unless and until customers delete them. In addition, even after deleting a voice recording, traces of it may remain on non-primary storage systems. None of that is good news.
Investigating how Amazon handles your data
In the first half of 2019, several technical publications began investigating what Amazon was doing with the voice recordings of the people of Alexa. Which, for people who are not familiar with the operation of Alexa, is all that is said immediately after saying their waking word.
Reports suggested that Amazon kept transcripts of people's interactions with Alexa, even after the voice recordings had been deleted. Senator Chris Coons of Delaware sent a letter to the founder and CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, and finally Amazon has responded.
Amazon admits that it retains Alexa voice recordings
According to CNET, Coons asked two questions, starting with “How long does Amazon store transcripts of user voice recordings? To which Amazon replied: "We keep the recordings and voice transcripts of the customers until the customer decides to delete them."
This is revealing in its own right, as Amazon admits that it saves Alexa voice recordings and transcripts unless and until the customer deletes them. And if they don't erase them, then we have to assume they are held indefinitely.
Coons also asked, "Do users have the ability to delete some or all of these transcripts?" After detailing how users can delete the voice recordings associated with their account, Amazon delved into the details of what is stored and where, saying:
This is a lot of information to digest, but it is essentially Amazon saying that it is doing everything possible to remove deleted transcripts from its systems, both the company and third parties can retain transaction records, and the company will retain some data from certain requests.
How to delete your Alexa voice recordings
Coons seems satisfied with this response, while at the same time promising to push harder to "protect the personal information of Americans." However, we suspect that customers interacting with Alexa will have reservations about data retention.
Until you improve the way you handle this data, all you can do is erase it as much as possible. So, with that in mind, here's how to erase voice recordings in your Echo. Or, if you feel lazy, you can ask Alexa to erase your voice recordings.