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Amazon’s Alexa Team Found to Have Broad Access to Users’ Location Data

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Citing at least five employees familiar with the program, Bloomberg is reporting that Amazon’s Alexa team has access to users’ geographic coordinates, which in some cases, can even be used to find a customer’s exact home address.

The Alexa Data Services team transcribes, annotates, and analyzes a portion of the voice recordings picked up by Alexa and helps Amazon’s digital voice assistant get better at understanding and responding to commands.

The report notes that members of Alexa team can easily punch in any user’s location data into third-party mapping software and find home residences.

Location data is more sensitive than many other categories of user information, said Lindsey Barrett, a staff attorney and teaching fellow at Georgetown Law’s Communications and Technology Clinic.

“Anytime someone is collecting where you are, that means it could go to someone else who could find you when you don’t want to be found,” she said. Widespread access to location data associated with Alexa user recordings “would set up a big red flag for me.”

Alexa

According to the employees, who signed nondisclosure agreements barring them from speaking publicly about the program, however, said that there’s no indication that any Alexa team member actually used the data to track down individual users.



Meanwhile, Amazon has officially issued the following statement in its defense:

“Access to internal tools is highly controlled, and is only granted to a limited number of employees who require these tools to train and improve the service by processing an extremely small sample of interactions. Our policies strictly prohibit employee access to or use of customer data for any other reason, and we have a zero tolerance policy for abuse of our systems. We regularly audit employee access to internal tools and limit access whenever and wherever possible.”

Amazon’s Alexa Data Services team consists of thousands of employees and contractors, spread across work sites from Boston to Romania and India.

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