Amazon's new Alexa features put more emphasis on privacy
You can now wipe out the day's audio history by saying: "Alexa, delete everything I said today."
Ben Fox RubinFormer senior reporter
Ben Fox Rubin was a senior reporter for CNET News in Manhattan, reporting on Amazon, e-commerce and mobile payments. He previously worked as a reporter for The Wall Street Journal and got his start at newspapers in New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
Privacy has become a much bigger concern for consumers, and Amazon appears to be paying attention.
It's now easier for people to delete their Alexa voice recordings, the tech giant said Wednesday. While they previously had to use the Alexa app or log in to Amazon to review and erase these records, they can now say, "Alexa, delete everything I said today," to wipe out the day's history of audio requests. The company said it will soon give customers the ability to delete their most recent requests by saying, "Alexa, delete what I just said."
To delete an entire Alexa history all at once, consumers will still need to log in to Amazon or the Alexa app and go to their Alexa privacy settings.
Amazon also introduced on Wednesday the new Echo Show 5, its first smart display with a physical shutter for the camera. This feature brings Amazon in line with many of its competitors that already offer smart displays with a camera shutter.
Amazon's moves come amid increased consumer attention toward privacy and how much data its smart home devices are taking in.
Amid this heightened concern, the e-commerce giant has faced more questions about what it does with users' Alexa information. CNET earlier this month reported that Amazon keeps text logs of Alexa requests on its cloud servers even if the audio clips have been deleted. The company has said it erases these text transcripts from its "main system" and is working on removing them from all other parts of its servers. Still, the story prompted questions from Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware who has asked the company about how it stores and manages this data.
This increased concern for privacy has been sparked in part by Facebook's repeated privacy blunders in recent years. Now, the biggest companies in tech are looking to emphasize their privacy capabilities to show customers they care about the issue. Apple in particular has made privacy a major focus of its latest ad campaign. And during its I/O developers conference earlier this month, Google repeatedly emphasized the privacy and security features of its latest products and services.
Regarding the camera shutter, Amazon follows the design moves of a handful of rivals. The Facebook Portal, JBL Link View and Lenovo Smart Display all include camera shutters. The Google Nest Hub, previously called the Google Home Hub, has no camera.
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Amazon has previously highlighted other privacy features for its smart displays, including a button that cuts off both the microphone and camera, as well as a visual indicator that shows when audio or video is streaming to Amazon's servers.
The new privacy shutter may make customers more comfortable with the built-in camera, especially because the compact Echo Show 5 is also marketed as a nightstand clock replacement. In addition, Amazon includes a "="" feature"="">"drop in" feature that lets people connect automatically with Alexa-enabled smart displays if they've been approved by the device's owner.
"The compact form factor is perfect for a bedside table or desk," Tom Taylor, senior vice president of Amazon Alexa, said in a statement about the Echo Show 5. "Plus it has a camera shutter for added peace of mind, and new Alexa privacy features for even more control."