Every move you make... Amazon is watching you

Every move you make... Amazon is watching you

Amazon gathers a vast array of information on its customers in the US.

VIRGINIA (REUTERS) – As a Virginia lawmaker, Dr Ibraheem Samirah has studied Internet privacy issues and debated how to regulate tech firms’ collection of personal data. Still, he was stunned to learn the full details of the information that Amazon.com has collected on him.

The e-commerce giant had more than 1,000 contacts from his phone. It had records of which part of the Quran that Dr Samirah, who was raised as a Muslim, had listened to on Dec 17 last year. The company knew every search he had made on its platform, including one for books on “progressive community organising” and other sensitive health-related inquiries he thought were private.

“Are they selling products, or are they spying on everyday people?” asked Dr Samirah, a Democratic member of the Virginia House of Delegates.

Dr Samirah was among the few legislators from the south-eastern US state who opposed an industry-friendly, Amazon-drafted state privacy Bill that passed earlier this year in the country. At Reuters’ request, Dr Samirah asked Amazon to disclose the data it had collected on him as a consumer.

The company gathers a vast array of information on its customers in the United States, and it started making that data available to all upon request early last year, after trying and failing to defeat a 2018 California measure requiring such disclosures. US and Singapore Amazon customers can obtain their data by filling out a form on Amazon’s website.

Seven Reuters reporters also obtained their Amazon files.

The data reveals the company’s ability to amass strikingly intimate portraits of individual consumers.

Amazon collects data on consumers through its Alexa voice assistant, its e-commerce marketplace, Kindle e-readers, Audible audiobooks, its video and music platforms, home-security cameras and fitness trackers. Alexa-enabled devices make recordings inside people’s homes, and Ring security cameras capture every visitor.

Such information can reveal a person’s height, weight and health; their ethnicity, via clues contained in voice data, and political leanings; their reading and buying habits; their whereabouts on any given day, and sometimes whom they have met.

One reporter’s dossier revealed that Amazon had collected more than 90,000 Alexa recordings of family members between December 2017 and June this year – averaging about 70 daily. The recordings included details such as the names of the reporter’s young children and their favourite songs.

Amazon captured the children asking how they could convince their parents to let them “play”, and getting detailed instructions from Alexa on how to convince their parents to buy them video games. Be fully prepared, Alexa advised the kids, to refute common parent arguments such as “too violent”, “too expensive” and “you’re not doing well enough in school”. The information came from a third-party program used by Alexa called “wikiHow” that provides how-to advice from more than 180,000 articles, according to Amazon’s website.

Amazon said it does not own wikiHow, but that Alexa sometimes responds to requests with information from websites.

Some recordings involved conversations between family members using Alexa devices to communicate across different parts of the house. Several recordings captured children apologising to their parents after being disciplined. Others picked up the children, aged seven, nine and 12, asking Alexa questions about terms like “pansexual”. In one recording, a child asks: “Alexa, what is a vagina?” In another: “Alexa, what does bondage mean?” The reporter did not realise Amazon was storing the recordings before the company disclosed the data it tracked on the family.

Amazon said its Alexa products are designed to record as little as possible, starting with the trigger word, “Alexa”, and stopping when the user’s command ends. The recordings of the reporter’s family, however, sometimes captured longer conversations.

In a statement, Amazon said it has scientists and engineers working to improve the technology and avoid false triggers that prompt recording. The company also said it alerts customers that recordings are stored when they set up Alexa accounts.

Amazon said it collects personal data to improve its products and services and customise them to individuals. Asked about the records of Dr Samirah listening to the Quran on Amazon’s audiobooks service, Amazon said such data allows customers to pick up where they left off from a prior session.

The only way for customers to delete much of this personal data is to close their account, Amazon said, adding that it retains some information, such as purchase history, after account closure to comply with legal obligations.

Amazon said its customers can adjust their settings on voice assistants and other services to limit the data collected. Alexa users, for instance, can stop Amazon from saving their recordings or have them automatically deleted periodically. And they can disconnect their contacts or calendars from their smart-speaker devices if they do not want to use Alexa’s calling or scheduling functions.

Customers can opt out of having their Alexa recordings examined, but they must navigate a series of menus and two warnings that say: “If you turn this off, voice recognition and new features may not work well for you.” Asked about the warnings, Amazon said consumers who limit data collection may not be able to personalise features such as music playback.

Dr Samirah, 30, got an Amazon Alexa-enabled smart speaker during last year’s holiday season. He said he used it for only three days before returning it after realising it was collecting recordings. “It really sketched me out,” he said.

The device had already gathered all of his phone contacts – part of a feature that allows users to make calls through the device. Amazon said Alexa users must give permission for the company to access phone contacts. Customers must disable access to phone contacts, not just delete the Alexa app, in order to delete the records from their Amazon account.

Dr Samirah said he was also unnerved that Amazon had detailed records of his audiobook and Kindle reading sessions.

He said that finding information about his listening to the Quran disclosed in his Amazon file made him think about the history of US police and intelligence agencies surveilling Muslims for suspected terrorist links after the attacks of Sept 11, 2001.

“Why do they need to know that?” he asked. Dr Samirah’s term ends in January, after he lost a bid for re-election earlier this year.

At times, law enforcement agencies seek data on customers from technology companies. Amazon has disclosed that it complies with search warrants and other lawful court orders seeking data the company keeps on an account, while objecting to “overbroad or otherwise inappropriate requests”. Amazon data for the three years ended June last year, the latest available, shows that the company complied at least partially with 75 per cent of subpoenas, search warrants and other court orders seeking data on US customers. The company also fully complied with 38 per cent of those requests.

Amazon stopped disclosing how often it complies with such requests last year. Asked why, the company said it expanded the scope of the US report to make it global, and “streamlined” the information from each country on law enforcement inquiries.

It said it is obligated to comply with “valid and binding orders”, but that its goal is to release “the minimum” required by law.

Amazon’s 3,500-word privacy policy, which links to more than 20 other pages related to privacy and user settings, gives the company wide latitude to collect information. It said the policy describes its collection, use and sharing of data “in a way that is easy for consumers to understand”.

That information can get quite personal. Amazon’s Kindle e-readers, for instance, precisely track a user’s reading habits, another reporter’s Amazon data file showed. The disclosure included records of more than 3,700 reading sessions since 2017, including timestamped logs – to the millisecond – of books read. Amazon also tracks words highlighted or looked up, pages turned and promotions seen.

It showed, for instance, that a family member read The Mitchell Sisters: A Complete Romance Series on Aug 8 last year, from 4.52pm to 7.36pm, flipping 428 pages.

Assistant Professor Florian Schaub, a privacy researcher at the University of Michigan, said businesses are not always transparent about what they are doing with users’ data. “We have to rely on Amazon doing the right thing, rather than being confident the data can’t be misused.”

News Related

OTHER NEWS

The chart that shows how bad your sick pay really is

Boris Johnson has confirmed plans to scrap the legal obligation for people with COVID to isolate, a move that experts warn could increase inequality (UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor) Boris Johnson has ... Read more »

These are the best Best Buy deals you can shop right now—save on LG, iRobot and Lenovo

— Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission. Whether you need a new washing machine to keep your clothes ... Read more »

12 winter home decor ideas that will cozy up your space

— Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission. The holidays are over but sadly, for many of us, winter ... Read more »

Want to stream the Superbowl? Check out this Paramount+ bundle deal

— Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission. On Sunday, February 13, Super Bowl LVI will kick off, and ... Read more »

30 Black-owned beauty brands you may not have heard of yet

— Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission. It’s no secret that the beauty industry at large has a ... Read more »

Young humpback whale freed from mooring line, buoy off Maui

The Associated PressIn this photo provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, officials remove mooring line and a buoy from a young humpback whale off Ukumehame, Maui, Wednesday, Jan. ... Read more »

Presidents' Day 2022 sales are officially here—here's everything you need to know

— Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission. Presidents’ Day 2022 sales are finally here with massive markdowns on ... Read more »

FAA gives green light to more 5G towers around airports

The Federal Aviation Administration’s ongoing battle with Verizon and AT&T over ultra-fast 5G C-band deployment around airports is finally ending: On Friday, the FAA announced an agreement on new steps ... Read more »

Oprah's "O List" January edition was just released—here's what our editors recommend

— Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission. Oprah, queen of gifting, has a monthly roundup through her publication ... Read more »

Work-from-home 'tax loophole' will not be scrapped, Treasury insists

The Treasury has dismissed claims that the chancellor is planning to axe a tax deduction for people working from home. (PA) The Treasury has denied reports it plans to cut ... Read more »

Ohio lured Intel's chip plant with $2B incentive package

The Associated PressIntel CEO Patrick Gelsinger, left, talks with Ohio governor Mike DeWine during the announcement on Friday Jan. 21, 2022 in Newark, Ohio, that Intel will invest $20 billion ... Read more »

In blow to telecoms, California's net neutrality law upheld

A federal appeals court has upheld California’s net neutrality law, rejecting an attempt by telecommunications industry groups to prevent the state from enforcing it. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ... Read more »

Banish body breakouts with these acne-fighting skincare products

— Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission. Almost everyone experiences a breakout at least once in their life. ... Read more »

Social media scams hit a new high in 2021

Social media scams hit an all-time high last year, new figures from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have revealed. The FTC claims a quarter of all fraud losses for the ... Read more »

37 cute and fun Valentine's Day gifts kids will love

— Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission. Valentine’s Day isn’t just for romantic love! It’s also the best ... Read more »

Get a pair of Madewell jeans for less than $24 during this blowout sale

— Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission. If you’re looking to overhaul your winter wardrobe, now is the ... Read more »

Save up to 65% off Cuisinart, Samsonite and Pyrex at Macy's massive home sale

— Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission. Are you looking for a new luggage set for the upcoming ... Read more »

Google stops serving ads on Fox News host Dan Bongino's website

Following YouTube's ban of Dan Bongino over its Covid-19 misinformation policy, Google stopped serving ads on Bongino's website. Read more »

What Is Level 2 Healthcare Software, and How Can We Use It for Maximum Advantage?

In healthcare, many patients are moving through a variety of clinical workflows. Their information is being created or collected every hour of every day, and many professionals need to consider ... Read more »

Best Biotech Stocks to Invest in Now

Biotechnology firms have attracted billions in capital due to the belief that biotech can transform health care. More flexible than traditional big pharma, biotech drives past basic and applied science ... Read more »

Huge subscription fraud campaign hits over 100 million Android users

A widespread Android subscription fraud campaign has been discovered actively stealing from users money. Uncovered by cybersecurity researchers from Zimperium zLabs, the “Dark Herring” campaign consists of some 470 apps, ... Read more »

Can you avoid COVID-19 if a household member has it? Here's how to decrease your risk

— Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission. Many of us have received that dreaded phone call or text ... Read more »

PGA Tour golf on ESPN Plus: what can I watch and how much does it cost?

Armchair golf fans in the US have never had it so good, with more live action available from the fairways online than ever before thanks to the all-new PGA Tour ... Read more »

Love Wordle? A new archive website has every daily puzzle you missed

If you’re new to Wordle or just can’t get enough, your experience doesn’t have to stop at one puzzle a day. A Duke University student has created a website archiving ... Read more »

Steam Lunar Sale has Back 4 Blood, Sekiro and Valheim at cheapest ever prices

Steam’s New Year Lunar Sale has kicked off ahead of the start of the Year of the Tiger, and it runs from now until February 3. That means you have ... Read more »

Montana weighs wolf hunt limits; 23 from Yellowstone killed

The Associated PressThis Jan. 24, 2018, photo released by the National Park Service shows a wolf from the Wapiti Lake pack silhouetted by a nearby hot spring in Yellowstone National ... Read more »

Sadiq Khan poll blow: London Mayor's approval rating firmly negative for first time

(PA Wire) Sadiq Khan’s approval ratings have fallen firmly into negative territory for the first time since he became mayor in 2016, a new poll has revealed. A survey by ... Read more »

NordLayer review

NordLayer (the service formerly known as NordVPN Teams) is a capable VPN-based network access security solution for all levels of business, from startups with small teams to big corporations with ... Read more »

Blizzard warnings issued for millions as East Coast braces for ‘bomb cyclone'

Millions of Americans are in the path of a powerful winter storm that could bring dangerous heavy snow, ice and winds with hurricane-like force threatening to flood coastal areas, knock ... Read more »

1000-Lb. Sisters' Tammy Slaton Drinks 8 Bottles of Liquor a Week, 'Putting Herself in Grave Danger'

Between Tammy Slaton's eating habits, lack of exercise and her worrisome new interest in drinking excessively, her doctor is concerned she's “putting herself in grave danger.” On the season finale ... Read more »

200k call for release of teens arrested for ‘beating and killing' stepfather who ‘inappropriately touched' their 9-year-old sister

Alejandro Trevino, Christian Trevino and Juan Melendez (Hidalgo County Jail) More than 200,000 people have signed a petition calling for the release two Texas brothers and their friend, after they ... Read more »

Revealed: Nearly two-thirds of bar staff aren't fully vaccinated

Nearly two-thirds of bar and waiting staff haven’t had three COVID vaccine doses. (Getty Images) Nearly two-thirds of bar staff and waiters in England are not fully vaccinated against COVID, ... Read more »

How Queen Elizabeth's Uncle Helped Her Father Have an Affair with a Married Woman

FREDA DUDLEY WARD, Edward VIII, George VI Pictorial Press Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo Prince Albert, Freda Dudley Ward and Edward, Prince of Wales around 1925 A 103-year-old letter that's ... Read more »

Woman, 20, charged after tractor gets stuck at rail bridge

Emergency services on the scene at the collision with a rail bridge in Inverkeithing. Pic: Fife Jammer Locations. A WOMAN has been charged after an incident in Inverkeithing this morning ... Read more »

European consumer watchdog forces Microsoft to fairly charge Xbox gamers

London, An investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in Europe has forced Microsoft to provide more transparent, upfront information to help customers understand their Xbox gaming console membership ... Read more »

IIT Jodhpur team develops Covid diagnosis technique using chest X-Ray

Jodhpur, Researchers at the Indian Institutes of Technology Jodhpur (IIT-J) have developed an Artificial Intelligence (AI) based chest X-Ray technique for Covid-19A screening.The team proposed a deep learning-based algorithm called ... Read more »

Data Bill waivers sought by govt worry Indian IT firms

New Delhi: The information technology sector will petition the government over concerns that the broad exemptions sought by lawmakers in the proposed Data Protection Bill will adversely impact the fortunes ... Read more »

Meta partners FICCI to support 5 lakh women-led SMBs in India

Social media giant Meta on Friday said it has, under its #SheMeansBusiness programme, partnered with industry body FICCI to support five lakh women-led small businesses across India. The announcement was ... Read more »

Samsung Galaxy S22+ and Galaxy S22 Ultra will reportedly come with 45W fast charging support

Samsung is expected to announce the next-generation Galaxy S series flagship smartphones on February 9. Ahead of the official launch, the rumour mill has been abuzz with the leaks and ... Read more »

Elden Ring director says It Takes Two was the last game to stick with him

Elden Ring director Hidetaka Miyazaki has said the last game to leave an impression on him was co-operative platformer It Takes Two. Speaking about Elden Ring on the official PlayStation ... Read more »
On free-english-test.com you will find lots of free English exam practice materials to help you improve your English skills: grammar, listening, reading, writing, ielts, toeic