Yes, Your Amazon Echo Why You Are Getting Those Ads

Technically This Doesn’t Break Amazon’s Privacy Policy

A large team of researches from the University of Washington, University of California-Davis, University of California-Irvine, and Northeastern University have published  a paper titled, “Your Echos are heard: Tracking, profiling, and ad-targeting in the Amazon smart speaker ecosystem.”.  You can find a link to it at The Register, but in short it seems that your Echo devices “processes voice recordings from skill interactions to infer user interests and uses those interests to target ads.”

The lovely thing is that Amazon’s Privacy Policy doesn’t mention anything about Echo devices as far as using conversations it can hear and using them to target ads at you.  That means that they are still abiding by their own terms, as nasty as that may be to hear.  It is not just Amazon eavesdropping on you, the paper suggests that the data collected is shared with up to 41 other companies.  This is not to say they are selling the actual interactions to those companies, merely the information on which ads to target you with.

As you might expect, Amazon has some issues with the research, but follow ups seem to indicate that Amazon’s objections are not particularly relevant to the actual findings.  The technique they used to do the testing is yet another interesting use for a Raspberry Pi, so it is possible you might be able to replicate their findings on your own; if you are interested in tormenting your own Amazon Echo.

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