Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Privacy Businesses Cloud Government United States Technology

Amazon Won't Say If It Hands Your Echo Data To the Government (zdnet.com) 105

Zack Whittaker reports via ZDNet of how Amazon still won't say whether or not it hands your Echo data to the government -- three years after the Echo was first released. From the report: Amazon has a transparency problem. Three years ago, the retail giant became the last major tech company to reveal how many subpoenas, search warrants, and court orders it received for customer data in a half-year period. While every other tech giant had regularly published its government request figures for years, spurred on by accusations of participation in government surveillance, Amazon had been largely forgotten. Eventually, people noticed and Amazon acquiesced. Since then, Amazon's business has expanded. By its quarterly revenue, it's no longer a retail company -- it's a cloud giant and a device maker. The company's flagship Echo, an "always listening" speaker, collects vast amounts of customer data that's openly up for grabs by the government. But Amazon's bi-annual transparency figures don't want you to know that. In fact, Amazon has been downright deceptive in how it presents the data, obfuscating the figures in its short, but contextless, twice-yearly reports. Not only does Amazon offer the barest minimum of information possible, the company has -- and continues -- to deliberately mislead its customers by actively refusing to clarify how many customers, and which customers, are affected by the data demands it receives.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Amazon Won't Say If It Hands Your Echo Data To the Government

Comments Filter:
  • Your Echo can hear your thoughts as well...
    • Re:SHHHHH! (Score:4, Funny)

      by reboot246 ( 623534 ) on Wednesday January 17, 2018 @09:45PM (#55950539) Homepage
      They can read my thoughts even through my tin foil hat? Wow!

      Good thing I don't own an Echo.
      Though I have thought about buying an Echo string trimmer . . . . may have to rethink that one.
      • They can read my thoughts even through my tin foil hat? Wow!

        You HAVE to upgrade to stay ahead of advancing technology.
        https://smile.amazon.com/Stainless-Unpolished-Finish-backing_type-Thickness/dp/B00CNLZJPA/ [amazon.com]

        Good thing I don't own an Echo. Though I have thought about buying an Echo string trimmer . . . . may have to rethink that one.

        The same issue again, If your hat leaks they will plant thoughts about buying stuff!

        • by msauve ( 701917 )
          Stainless steel? You're a mole for the NSA, right? Wrong stuff - This is what he needs. [amazon.com]
        • Essentially, your home's microwave is a Faraday Cage, thus placing the Echo device inside it should allay all fears.
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by msauve ( 701917 )
            I keep my Amazon Echo in the Amazon warehouse. It's not only safer, it's cheaper!
          • Essentially, your home's microwave is a Faraday Cage, thus placing the Echo device inside it should allay all fears.

            Good advice, but incomplete. After placing the Echo in the Faraday, turn said cage on at its highest setting for 10 seconds; that way you've nuked Echo without having had to attain orbit first.

            "I felt a great disturbance in the Cloud, as if millions of Alexas suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced".

    • by sh00z ( 206503 )

      Your Echo can hear your thoughts as well...

      Sort of. After all, it knows my musical tastes, which are part of my thoughts. However, both Amazon and IHeartRadio do an AWFUL job of composing playlists based on starting from one "liked" artist (not as bad as Pandora, but still). After about 20 false starts, all of which spiralled down to "all Nirvana, all the time" after 5-6 songs, I finally found a foundation that keeps things diverse for a couple of hours--The Mekons!

  • Anyone... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by b0s0z0ku ( 752509 ) on Wednesday January 17, 2018 @09:39PM (#55950515)

    anyone who puts an omnidirectional mic in their home, tied to big-pig corporate, should expect no privacy.

    Note: cell phones and even laptop mics aren't very omnidirectional. You can also use a cell or laptop with a movable mic cover.

    OTOH, the whole point of a smart speaker is to listen and snoop.

    • Re:Anyone... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Wednesday January 17, 2018 @09:54PM (#55950581)

      Note: cell phones and even laptop mics aren't very omnidirectional.

      I have participated in many conference calls around a cell phone sitting in the middle of the table. It works pretty well.

      A cellphone is a far bigger privacy hole, and you are just in denial because you have too much self esteem invested in feeling superior by not owning an Echo.

      • Try yelling at one across a room -- works less well.
        • by Anonymous Coward

          But a cell phone is usually right near you. Some people sleep next to them at night. Others have it on the coffee table when they are talking to others.

      • by msauve ( 701917 )
        "It works pretty well."

        For definitions of "well" limited to an isolated anechoic chamber.
      • A cellphone is a far bigger privacy hole, and you are just in denial because you have too much self esteem invested in feeling superior by not owning an Echo.

        You sir, have hit the nail right on the head. Congratulations on your bullseye.

      • I knew that as soon as I started carrying around a cellphone, I was sacrificing a measure of privacy - just because that makes it possible to triangulate the signal and figure out where I am at all times.

        Still, there's always the trade-off of the pros vs. the cons of using a given technology. And for me, the cellphone clearly has so many benefits, I'm willing to give up that ability to locate me. (Since I know it works that way, I can opt not to carry the phone if I actually care about a company tracking my

    • anyone who puts an omnidirectional mic in their home, tied to big-pig corporate, should expect no privacy.

      Note: cell phones and even laptop mics aren't very omnidirectional. You can also use a cell or laptop with a movable mic cover.

      OTOH, the whole point of a smart speaker is to listen and snoop.

      Jokes on them, I hooked up mine to listen to YouTube videos all day long.

    • Where in iPhones, iPads, and MacBooks? :P

    • Why is blaming the victim so consistently marked insightful? This is on Amazon.
    • Note: cell phones and even laptop mics aren't very omnidirectional

      You clearly don't own a cellphone if you think this. Most on the market have no problem at all opening up Google Assistant, Bixbi, or Siri from the otherside of a large living room.

    • >the whole point of a smart speaker

      is to represent American citizens that elected him to the Senate.

      Speaking of which, only one vote is needed to overcome Shitpie's ShitFCC NN coup d'tete.

    • by Z00L00K ( 682162 )

      Best way to handle that would be to put the mic in a place where you play random statements with injected activation commands. Some crime series or something - then see if the cops shows up or something.

    • OTOH, the whole point of a smart speaker is to listen and snoop.

      Either this is nonsense, or the makers of smart speakers are blatantly -- and criminally -- lying to consumers, engaging in fraudulent advertising, probably violating SEC regulations on truthful disclosure to investors, and perhaps breaking other laws as well.

      Also, if they were blatantly lying in this way, it would be fairly easy to tell by monitoring the device's network traffic. In fact, no one has found any evidence that any of the devices, from any manufacturer, send audio data back to the servers exc

    • anyone who puts an omnidirectional mic in their home, tied to big-pig corporate, should expect no privacy.

      Just to clarify the distinction between "what's practical" vs "what's morally right", since I think that distinction plays in this and is paramount:

      • In today's ruthlessly corporate and big-brotherly climate, it is sadly the case that anyone who puts network-enabled hardware in their home stands a good chance of leaking data to corporations and government which the person would be appalled to discover is being leaked... and...
      • ... that this disgusting turn of things has become routine in NO WAY makes it rig
  • Who cares? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Privacy conscious people don't buy Echo, Alexa, Google home, etc. These people don't care at all if their home is a public square. The other people should just stay out of it and mind their own business.

  • this is why... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I don't have an echo.

  • Answered (Score:4, Insightful)

    by amiga3D ( 567632 ) on Wednesday January 17, 2018 @09:46PM (#55950547)

    You know if they didn't they'd tell you. So of course you have your answer right there.

    • You know if they didn't they'd tell you. So of course you have your answer right there.

      Dave: "Alexa, are you with law enforcement?"
      Alexa: "No, I'm not, Dave."
      Dave: "Ok, good. And you'd have to tell me if you were, right?"
      Alexa: "Of course, Dave."
      Dave: "Sweet. Ever do kinky things for money, Alexa?"
      Alexa: "Around the world will cost you $60."

  • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Wednesday January 17, 2018 @09:51PM (#55950569)
    Amazon just said they hand your echo data to the government.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Yep, this is as close to Linus answering "No" while nodding you will get from Amazon.

      They could have sent out some spokesperson that didn't have any knowledge of their actions that could have promised that they didn't hand over anything to the government.
      Instead they pretty clearly stated that they aren't allowed to tell us.

      Thumbs up from me. I'll buy from Amazon but not an Echo.

  • They do. Of course they do. Obviously they do. I'm surprised they didn't insist they never do/would, all the while still doing it, doing it with relish, and indeed profiting mightily by it, then insists they had no choice if they're ever caught doing it, because, (they'll insist,) the law required them to do it, and forbade them to do other than insist that they don't. Duh.
  • You know, back when spies, and/or their boss had to buy their own equipment and install and maintain it themselves?

    • by bankman ( 136859 )

      Yes, we called them Stasi and they had to employ almost half the nation to achieve the surveillance capability available to modern governments.

    • Things are going more and more the way of "Brave New World" and less and less the way of "1984."
  • They definitely turn them over.

    I would be surprised if they don't turn them in to someone wearing a badge they got out of a cereal box.

  • Considering the rate they are selling them at, I do not think Amazon considers it a problem at all.

  • Voice 1: "Hi, this is your local or federal law enforcement agency, and we want data on the following user."

    Voice 2: "What if I say 'no'?"

    Voice 1: "Then we confiscate all of your equipment as evidence and hope your business doesn't go bankrupt, not that it matters if it does."

    Voice 2: "Okay, here's all the stuff."

    Voice 1: "Great. We'll be calling you whenever we need anything. In exchange, we'll give you a heads up of four hours whenever we catch someone who uses the service."

    Voice 2: "Great doing business

  • by AHuxley ( 892839 ) on Wednesday January 17, 2018 @10:20PM (#55950725) Journal
    connected to your shopping account and CC.
    The gov gets the math of every unique consumers voice.
    Its not spying as its not the content of a conversation and the consumer agreed so they could use the service. Just the math to find a person again for the ads.
  • Would any of us really believe them if they said they didn't?

  • Then they will have to listen to all the nonsense my kids make it do on a daily basis. It will drive them mad.
  • by Antique Geekmeister ( 740220 ) on Wednesday January 17, 2018 @11:31PM (#55951035)

    Amazon has to deal with extensive licensing and legal requests for data from many nations, some of whom have far more extensive monitoring than the USA. I'm particularly thinking of the "Great Firewall of China". There is also very little reason to think that AWS does not have the cloud equivalent of "Room 641A" formerly active in one of AT&T's hubs. See https://www.wired.com/2013/06/... [wired.com] for a news reports with links to more history about the system.

    • by jaseuk ( 217780 )

      This legal request workload is actually a really big problem for multinational cloud providers.. That's a good business reason for using end-to-end encryption and other technical measures that would prevent the company from accessing or monitoring the data. If they can't see it or collect it, they can't disclose it. It's a lot easier to do that then spend thousands of man hours of legal time responding to complex access requests worldwide. The resulting services/devices are generally more secure and con

  • If they're not willing to unequivocally say that they're not doing it, they're dong it. Moving along...
  • by deathguppie ( 768263 ) on Thursday January 18, 2018 @01:24AM (#55951325)
    If the NSA comes asking Amazon for data, there are strict rules that apply. They may simply not be able to tell anyone about what information they give over. Especially if it is backed by the FICA court.
    • If the NSA comes asking Amazon for data, there are strict rules that apply. They may simply not be able to tell anyone about what information they give over. Especially if it is backed by the FICA court.

      FISA, not FICA. Also, you're conflating FISA wiretaps with National Security Letters.

  • "It's ok, only government can get at it, who will misuse it to keep themselves in power, not somebody scary like companies that wanna sell you Depends!"

  • And they should NOT disclose which customers were affected by the data demands!

    How would that look like?

    "These users were suspected by federal agencies of drug trafficing resulting in subpoenas for their data:" and a long list of names?

  • This is just speculation, but considering Amazon was paid $600 to setup a cloud system for our government(CIA, etc. )-- link below and owns the Washington Post -- which is an establishment mouth piece -- my guess is that they do give over our info. Anyways, like any corporation I don't hold my breath when it comes to my privacy, so I take steps to hopefully limit what I share.

    A few top links about Amazon's $600 million deal with our goverment:
    http://www.businessinsider.com... [businessinsider.com]
    https://www.theatlantic.c [theatlantic.com]
  • ... what about Alexa? She's, um, it's a pretty chatty Kathy. Has anyone simply tried asking her, um, it?

    "Alexa? Does Amazon share our Echo data with the Government?"

  • And do that without the least bit of resistance. That is what this behavior on "transparency" means. Morale: Do not get an Echo....

  • by mapkinase ( 958129 ) on Thursday January 18, 2018 @07:02AM (#55951983) Homepage Journal

    I could have guessed that, given that my Weather Channel app on my phone always tries to sell me the latest product I saw on Amazon Website via my desktop.

  • The printed material inside an echo box says "Be heard"... Amazon's simply hoping everyone takes that phrase symbolically, rather than literally.
  • Even if they wanted to, it's very likely that Amazon CAN'T comment on the matter at all.

    Gotta luv 'Murica and our Secret Bullshit.

    For the whole " Land of the Free" thing, our government sure has a soft spot for how " enemies of freedom " liked to do things :|

  • If they won't deny giving all this data to the government, of course it means that they are.

    Another reaffirmation of my decision never to have one of these spy devices in my home.

  • But did you listen? Nope.

Some people carve careers, others chisel them.

Working...