A report released last week contends that Amazon uses voice data from its Echo devices to serve targeted ads on its own platforms and the web. The report, produced by researchers affiliated with the University of Washington, UC Davis, UC Irvine, and Northeastern University, said the ways Amazon does this is inconsistent with its privacy policies.
Titled, “Your Echos are Heard: Tracking, Profiling, and Ad Targeting in the Amazon Smart Speaker Ecosystem,” the report concludes that Amazon and third parties (including advertising and tracking services) collect data from your interactions with Alexa through Echo smart speakers and share it with as many as 41 advertising partners. That data is then used to “infer user interests” and “serve targeted ads on-platform (Echo devices) as well as off-platform (web).” It also concludes that this type of data is in hot demand, leading to “30X higher ad bids from advertisers.”
Amazon confirmed to The Verge that it does use voice data from Alexa interactions to inform relevant ads shown on Amazon or other sites where Amazon places ads. “Similar to what you’d experience if you made a purchase on Amazon.com or requested a song through Amazon Music, if you ask Alexa to order paper towels or to play a song on Amazon Music, the record of that purchase or song play may inform relevant ads shown on Amazon or other sites where Amazon places ads.” Amazon spokesperson Lauren Raemhild said in an email.
How to opt out of targeted ads with Alexa
Alexa customers can opt out of interest-based ads from Amazon on its Advertising Preferences Page. While there is no mention here of Echo devices, Amazon spokesperson Lauren Raemhild confirmed to The Verge that it does include ads on devices and services such as Alexa.
For Alexa devices, there are additional privacy controls managed through Settings > Alexa Privacy in the Alexa app or at amazon.com/alexaprivacysettings. Here, you can see and manage your voice recordings as well as manage the permissions granted to skills. To manage third-party skills advertising preferences, you will need to go to their app or website.