Amazon smart speakers are not only useful for consumers, but for the company as well. According to a new study, Amazon has been using the voice data captured by Echo speakers to push personalised ads to your interface.
The report titled “Your Echos are Heard: Tracking, Profiling, and Ad Targeting in the Amazon Smart Speaker Ecosystem, has been published by researchers from a host of Universities in the US. It mentions that Amazon has relied on the smart speaker, not only to track the voice data, but use that data to serve users with targeted ads through the same Echo device or on the web.
The report states that Amazon has found a great recipe for marketing success, with advertisers offering 30X higher bids for such data. And speaking to The Verge, Amazon confirmed the findings of the report. It says that any user relying on Amazon Music or voice-based shopping through Echo device, they might be getting ads related to such activities, especially where the ads are placed by Amazon.
But the company points out that the voice data is not shared with its developers, and consumers are actually given the choice to opt-out of such targeted ads. It is possible such actions are hidden behind different settings on the Alexa app that the company doesn’t highlight as much as it should.
The report also highlighted that Amazon is not sharing the raw conversations for its targeted purpose, and the transcript is processed to suit the needs of the advertisers. Even then, such findings raise severe concerns regarding the use case of smart speakers.
After all, user privacy is a big issue for smart devices, and while the report says these smart speakers track less data compared to smart TVs and VR headsets, the benchmark is so low that Amazon can’t really claim to be a privacy advocate.
However, Amazon talked about the report being flawed, and claimed the research is based on inaccurate inferences by the authors, and not truly show how Alexa works behind the scenes.