Skip to main content

Amazon might be using Alexa to send you targeted ads

It appears that Amazon might be using its speakers to send you targeted ads, according to a recent report published online. To collect the data required to send you personalized ads, Amazon has been sharing transcripts of your conversation with its Alexa smart assistant with third-party businesses.

This new report was produced by researchers from the University of Washington, the University of California – Davis, the University of California – Irvine, and Northeastern University. They published the information online and stated that Amazon and third parties share people’s interactions with over 40 advertisers. That data informs Amazon’s advertising partners about your interests and then influences ads you receive on your Alexa speakers and the web.

Related Videos
Echo Dot on an entryway table.

Now, targeted ads aren’t technically bad; it’s just how companies come across that data and how transparent they are about what they collect and how they use it. Amazon replied to the reports, saying that, like other companies, Alexa uses voice data to influence ads that it produces across different mediums. It’s in the same vein as if you were to request a song through Alexa or if you purchase an item on Amazon then uses that information to help curate a more personalized experience for you.

Amazon also has a way to turn off targeted ads and specific data collection while you use its products. Amazon customers go to their account, select Advertising Preferences Page, and turn off ads. This setting affects not only the website, but also any Amazon service or product connected to your profile. For more detailed settings, you can check the privacy settings in the Alexa app on your mobile device to manage what voice data is collected while using your products.

An Amazon Echo on a table in between a few books and a coffee mug.

Some of the controversies from this reporting come from the mystery of the exact amount of data and information being shared. The researchers have shown that while a significant amount of data is being shared with third party partners and that those partners are paying up to 30x more for voice data, the amount of data being shared is less than what would be from a smart TV or VR headset. Also, only transcripts are shared with partners, not full raw voice clips.

Amazon spokesperson Lauren Raemhild stated that the conclusions coming from the report are inaccurate inferences and speculation. She says that Amazon is “not in the business of selling our customers’ personal information[…].” Raemhild also said there are practices to make sure third party developers explain how much data they collect and for what purposes. The researchers noted that more transparency is needed from Amazon and other companies.

Editors' Recommendations

Presidents Day Sales 2023: Tracking the deals as they start

The holiday sales are over and the new year has arrived, so if you're looking forward to the next big retail event, then the 2023 Presidents Day sales are your best bet. This is one of the few major holidays to land in the first quarter of the year, with Presidents Day deals covering everything from electronics to home essentials. Whether Santa didn't bring you one of the gifts you wanted or you still have some Christmas money burning a hole in your wallet, then now's the time to start readying your shopping list for the upcoming Presidents Day sales -- and we're tracking the best deals as they emerge, starting today.
Presidents Day sales that have already started

Amazon: Savings across a variety of different categories, including laptops.
Casper: Save up to $940 on select mattresses and up to 60% on bedding.
Dell: Massive discounts on laptops, monitors, and smart home.
Dyson: As much as $200 off Dyson vacuum cleaners and fans.
Home Depot: 30% off select mattresses and bedroom furniture.
HP: Up to 55% off laptops, monitors, and printers.
Leesa: Price cuts of up to $375 on best-selling mattresses.
Lowe’s: Up to 40% off appliances like refrigerators and washer-dryers.
Nectar: Discounts and $300 worth of free goodies with every mattress.
Overstock: An extra 15% off select bedroom and living room furniture.
Staples: 40% off chairs and furniture, including filing cabinets and desks.
Target: Up to 25% off home decor, including furniture and lighting.
Tempur-Pedic: Save up to $500 on select mattress sets.
Tuft & Needle: 10% off sitewide and up to 15% off mattresses.

Read more
New Ikea air quality sensor arrives just in time for spring
The Ikea air quality sensor on a stack of books.

Ikea might be best-known as the place to buy affordable furniture, but the company also has a surprisingly robust lineup of smart home products. The newest addition to the Ikea smart home family is the Vindstyrka smart indoor air quality sensor -- a tiny device that measures particulate matter (PM2.5) -- and it's slated to arrive this April.

The upcoming Vindstyrka air quality sensor features a minimalist, rectangular design that offers nothing more than a few buttons and a simple display highlighting PM2.5 levels, temperature, humidity, and total volatile organic compounds (TVOC). The sensor is built to work all on its own, although you’ll get more mileage out of the device by pairing it to the Ikea smartphone app. Doing this will allow you to activate other devices based on the current air quality, including Ikea's own Starkvind air purifier.

Read more
What is Arlo Secure, and is it worth it?
The Arlo Pro 4 home security camera installed outdoors.

Arlo makes some of the best smart home products on the market. From robust video doorbells to premium security cameras, a model from Arlo is all but guaranteed to fit your needs. Products in the lineup tend to be a bit expensive and -- like most other smart home cameras -- lock many features behind a monthly subscription called Arlo Secure.

Curious to learn more about Arlo Secure before signing up? Or maybe you’re wondering if you need it at all, as your Arlo devices will function perfectly fine without becoming a member. Whatever the case, here’s a closer look at Arlo Secure and if it's worth signing up for.
What is Arlo Secure?

Read more