You might want to watch what you’re saying around your Amazon Echo or “Alexa”. Sure it’s convenient and the interactions with Toddlers has given the internet hours of entertainment, but your echo is not a toy. ‘Alexa’ not only retrieves information, it’s collecting your data as well. New reports indicate marketing companies now want to get their hands on it.
Epsilon’s Data Design is among a handful of consultancies building Alexa skills for its brand clients. The firm, whose core business is as a supplier of data and related services, has worked closely with Amazon over the past year to devise uses for the Alexa platform and data. The company integrates unstructured, public Alexa data with its own rich trove of consumer information. It’s all part of a broader effort to create ways of incorporating data from emerging technology platforms – think eye tracking or facial recognition data – into the information it uses to inform strategies for clients.
“Epsilon was an early adopter of Amazon Alexa,” said Rob Pulciani, director at Alexa. “Over the last 12 months, we’ve worked closely with Epsilon’s Data Design team as they’ve experimented with and leveraged the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) to help solve their client’s business needs and make their customer’s lives easier.”
The spin is always going to be that it is for the customers, but how many people brought these speech activated gadgets into their home with the assumption of privacy? Maybe the idea that you’re broadcasting live to a server recording your every word is baked into the purchase. I don’t own one for a reason. My assumption is that most who buy an “Alexa” or an echo or one of the many others, didn’t ever imagine that it would be used to monitor your daily routine… for statistical purposes.
One of the creepier aspects of the technology is the ability to collect data from seemingly harmless conversations, at this time that Data is being “protected” by Amazon but for how long? It’s also worth noting that apparently not all of the manufacturers are choosing to do so.
Developers cannot tap an Alexa API for conversations overheard by devices that operate on the platform such as Amazon’s Echo. For example, Domino’s would be able to see data on keywords used when people place orders through Alexa, but not have access to a raw voice file. They can’t glean information on demographics related to people using their skills, and they definitely cannot access any data about specific people using Alexa.
Of course, by keeping its data close to the vest, Amazon arguably has an advantage over brands and merchants using its platforms, as well as other retailers.
The privacy concerns about this are real. This is the kind of information that should be made very clear to the consumers. It’s their choice to bring an “Alexa” into their home, but they have a right to know just what that entails.
We could see another round of privacy lawsuits as these become more popular. It creates an entire set of questions that need to be answered. Primarily will data obtained by “Alexa” be admissible in court, in the event it records alleged illegal activity? How long until “Alexa” is coded for auto-reporting for specific crimes?
Maybe the real money will be made by the lawyers when this is all said and done. Those who want the convenience and fun of a speech activated search engine, or smart house, all of this may just be something on which they’re will to compromise.