Amazon is under fire from a Virginia lawmaker after he learned the full details of the information that the ecommerce giant was keeping on him.
Ibraheem Samirah has studied internet privacy issues and debated how to regulate tech firms’ collection of personal data.
The data collected on Samirah included access to 1,000 contacts on his phone, which part of the Quran he’d listened to on December 17 last year, every search he had made on the platform, and sensitive health-related queries that he believed were private.
“Are they selling products, or are they spying on everyday people?” asked Samirah, a Democratic member of the Virginia House of Delegates.
Amazon collects and keeps a huge amount of data on its customers, which it has made available to consumers upon request since last year after trying and failing to defeat a 2018 California measure requiring such disclosures.
It collects data through its Alexa voice assistant, its marketplace, Kindle e-readers, Audible audiobooks, its video and music platforms, home-security cameras and fitness trackers.
Alexa-enabled devices can make voice recordings inside people’s homes while Ring security cameras capture every visitor that knocks on a person’s door.
This information can reveal someone’s height, weight, ethnicity (which comes through clues that are obtained through voice data, political opinions and sometimes who they have met during the day).
Samirah was part of a number of legislators who rejected an industry-friendly, Amazon-drafted state privacy bill that passed earlier this year.
One of the dossiers that was revealed to Reuters revealed Amazon has collected over 90,000 Alexa recordings of one family between December 2017 and June 2021, averaging around 70 daily.
Some of the recordings included details including the names of young children and their favourite songs.
Another 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.
The answer that Alexa relayed were found on third-party website, ‘WikiHow’.