She relates that she requested all the data that Amazon has on her and the report came back with information about her location, phone contacts and thousands of recordings of her voice, which were collected from products that she bought and placed at home.
“For reference, I have two dots and one echo, plus a few smart bulbs,” she says. The TikTok star then opens a zip file that she previously downloaded, which contains folders with titles like “Alerts,” “Answers,” “Audio and Transition,” “Lists,” “Routines,” “Shopping” and more.
“I decided to click on the audio one and this is what they have. These are all short voice clips which is so scary and this is one of me turning on the light. There are 3,534 short audio clips in this folder alone,” she says.
When she clicked on contacts, it turned out that Amazon has a full list of contacts on her phone – which she could not remember syncing.
“The very last thing that I didn’t know that they had, I could have assumed that they had, but I don’t love that they have, is my location. If you open up this file here, it will show you where you are located, right down to the latitude and longitude. I am not totally comfortable with everything they have.” she says in the video clip.
The video has soon amassed over 2.6 million views, 186,000 likes and over 6,000 comments, many of which are from concerned Amazon customers. (Related: It’s time to disconnect: Researchers warn about personal data collection by smart products.)
Explaining Amazon’s data collection
Amazon has been collecting data since its early years as an online bookshop. Werner Vogels, the firm’s chief technology officer, says that the company is trying to collect as much information as possible so that it can provide its customers with product recommendations. As the company expanded, so did its data collection operation.
“The reason online shopping through Amazon is so convenient is because the company has spent years consolidating its power and reach. The company is in a position to collect huge amounts of data – not only through its shopping platform, but also through its Ring cameras, Alexa voice assistants, web services, delivery services, streaming services and its many other business streams,” says Sara Nelson, director of the corporate data exploitation program at civil liberties group, Privacy International.
At over 4,400 words, it is hardly surprising that people don’t read Amazon’s privacy notice. However, it clearly states what the company does with private data. Generally, Amazon collects data from three sources: the data given when a person uses Amazon and its other services (such as reading kindle books), data it can collect automatically (such as information about a person’s phone and location) and information from third parties (including credit checks to see if your account is fraudulent).
Amazon claims that the company’s goal for collecting data is to help sell more products to its customer base. By learning everything it can about their customers’ likes and dislikes, the company can show recommendations for things it thinks the customers are likely to buy.
“Personal data about shopping is incredibly sensitive. It can tell you about a person’s health status, their political tendencies, their sexual practices and much more,” says Carissa Veliz, an associate professor at the University of Oxford‘s Institute for Ethics. “People buy all kinds of things on Amazon, from books and movies to health-related items. Add to that personal data from Alexa, and it gets even more concerning.”
Go to PrivacyWatch.news for more news related to privacy and surveillance.