Every time you speak to Alexa, it sends a recording of your voice to Amazon’s servers. If you’ve ever wondered how long Amazon keeps that transcript, the company has an answer for you. Indefinitely—or until you delete the data manually.
Alexa isn’t always recording everything you say. Most of the time, it just listens for the wake word (Alexa, Echo, or Computer), but once you do say that wake word, everything that follows is recorded and sent to Amazon’s servers. The cloud servers are the real intelligence behind Alexa; they parse what you say and then send an appropriate response.
What wasn’t clear is what happened after. We knew that Amazon kept the recording for an unspecified amount of time. Having the transcripts are useful for improving the service, and you can even listen to your requests as well. But we didn’t know if Amazon ever deleted the data.
Amazon recently answered that question in a letter to Senator Chris Coons, and you may not like what it has to say:
We retain customers’ voice recordings and transcripts until the customer chooses to delete them.
That is, if you don’t go out of your way to delete your data, Amazon won’t either. It will keep your voice recordings forever. You can, of course, choose to delete the data manually. Amazon did go on to specify that when you do this, your voice recording truly is removed. But some underlying data may be kept when necessary. If, for instance, you asked Alexa to purchase something, then transaction data is saved for purchase records purposes.
If you ordered an Uber or Lyft, while Amazon deletes the actual recording of your voice requesting the service, the outside companies, like Uber, still have a record that you used the service, and your pickup and dropoff point and any other information Amazon shared with the third-party company. It isn’t clear from Amazon’s answer if the company shares a copy of your voice recording with skill developers.
Deleting your data is, thankfully, rather simple and you can even do so by voice now. We’d still like to see Amazon follow in Google’s footsteps and stop retaining voice recordings sent to cloud servers by default. [CNET]
In Other News:
- Uber Eats wants to cut down restaurant wait time: Uber Eats has a novel idea: order your dine-in food before you arrive. The new service lets you order your meal on the way to the restaurant, so you have less wait time between sitting down at a table and beginning to eat—not a bad idea. [TechCrunch]
- iOS 13 will fix your gaze in FaceTime: FaceTime (and other video chat apps) have a problem. To appear as though you’re looking at the other person on the line, you need to look at the camera. But to see what’s going on, you need to look at the screen. That usually leads to a disconnect since you don’t seem to be looking at the other person. An update in iOS 13 wants to take care of that. It will adjust your gaze to make it seem as though you are looking at the camera even when you’re looking at the screen—pretty neat stuff. [VenuteBeat]
- Google wants to make filling in credit card info easier: Google Chrome can store your credit card info to automatically add your info to appropriate fields. Usually, to benefit from this on a new device, you have to activate Google Sync. Now that is unnecessary; Chrome will fill in the fields (except the security code) for you so long as you signed in with your Google account. [TechRadar]
- TA505 hacking gang now targetting banks specifically: TA505 is a well-known hacking group that found success in part by targetting as broad a population as possible. It would blast out phishing emails to large groups of people and organizations. The more attempts it made, the more likely someone would click the link. Now it’s targetting banks and other financial organizations specifically. This narrow targetting is becoming more common, usually in the hopes that a single hit will yield a higher reward. [ZDNet]
- Regal Cinemas planning to launch a subscription service: MoviePass’s success and failure showed both the potential and pitfalls to theater subscription services. But the theaters themselves seem to think the concept can work, and more have been rolling out custom subscription services. Regal’s service may launch this month, and will likely cost between $18 and $24 a month (at tiered subscription levels). [MacRumors]
- Microsoft blocking Windows 10 May 2019 Update from older Macs: If you use Windows on Mac, you may find it impossible to upgrade to the latest version of Windows 10 if your Mac is from 2011 or you haven’t updated bootcamp. The problem seems to be related to the MacHALDriver.sys, and Microsoft is working on a fix. [Windows Latest]
- Samsung rolls out Night Mode photography to Galaxy S10 Plus: Until now, Samsung users have only had a Bright Mode feature for night photography, with no options to turn it on or adjust it. Now Samsung is rolling out a Night Mode feature to U.S. users (it hit internationally already) with more granular controls. We doubt it bests Pixel 3’s amazing Night Sight feature. [The Verge]
- Your Phone Android Notifications rolling out to everybody: Microsoft’s Your Phone app is the best Windows 10 feature you’re probably not using. Mirrored Android notifications are one of the features that excited us the most. But until now, only Windows Insiders could use it. Microsoft is now rolling out the feature to all Windows 10 users. Sorry iPhone users, iOS is too locked down to take advantage. [Engadget]
The Hubble telescope continues to provide us with fascinating data and beautiful images. Sometimes it gives us both at once.
Hubble managed to capture an image of an exploding star. The star in question is named Eta Carinae, and 170 years ago it was the second brightest star in the sky. But it faded over time, and now it’s much harder to see with the naked eye. We’ve known Eta Carinae was going through a series of explosions, and suspect the suspect that three stars are the cause, all bound together by gravity.
Now, while observing the star, Hubble spotted an eruption and discovered a change. Where we had a good understanding of what gasses Eta Carinae ejected in the past, now scientists can see evidence of new gasses, such as magnesium. Along with that change, scientists saw a much larger and faster explosion than had been seen in the past. Now, NASA thinks the star eventually die in a supernova explosion.