Here’s a fun thought experiment; picture the amount of personal data you think tech companies keep on you. Now, realise it’s actually way more than that (hmm, maybe this isn’t that fun). Even as privacy and security become more talked about in consumer tech, the companies behind our favourite products are collecting more and more of our data. How much? Well, if you want to know the information, say, Amazon has on you, there is a way to find out. And it’s a lot.
To be clear, data collection is far from an Amazon-specific problem; it’s pretty much par for the course when it comes to tech companies. Even Apple, a company vocal about user privacy, has faced criticism in the past for recording Siri interactions and sharing them with third-party contractors.
The issue with Amazon, however, is the extent to which they collect and archive your data. Just about everything you do on, with, and around an Amazon product or service is logged and recorded. Sure, you might not be surprised to learn that when you visit Amazon’s website, the company logs your browsing history and shopping data. But it goes far beyond that. Since Amazon owns Whole Foods, it also saves your shopping history there. When you watch video content through its platforms, it records all of that information, too.
Things get even creepier with other Amazon products. If you read books on a Kindle, Amazon records your reading activity, including the speed of your page turns (I wonder if Bezos prefers a slow or fast page flip); if you peered into your Amazon data, you might find something similar to what a Reuter’s reporter found: On Aug. 8 2020, someone on that account read The Mitchell Sisters: A Complete Romance Series from 4:52 p.m. through 7:36 p.m., completing 428 pages. (Nice sprint.)
If you have one of Amazon’s smart speakers, you’re on the record with everything you’ve ever uttered to the device: When you ask Alexa a question or give it a command, Amazon saves the audio files for the entire interaction. If you know how to access you data, you can listen to every one of those audio files, and relive moments you may or may not have realised were recorded.
I downloaded all the data Amazon has on me, and honestly the creepiest thing about it is that they sent me the *actual audio files* of every time I spoke* to Amazon Alexa
*years ago when I was young and foolish about surveillance pic.twitter.com/XH4Lp4bDob
— Alina Utrata (@AlinaUtrata) January 23, 2022
Another Reuters reporter found Amazon saved over 90,000 recordings over a three-and-a-half-year period, which included the reporter’s children asking Alexa questions, recordings of those same children apologizing to their parents, and, in some cases, extended conversations that were outside the scope of a reasonable Alexa query.
Unfortunately, while you can access this data, Amazon doesn’t make it possible to delete much of it. You can tweak your privacy settings you stop your devices from recording quite as much information. However, once logged, the main strategy to delete it is to delete the entire account it is associated with. But even if you can’t delete the data while sticking with your account, you do have a right to see what data Amazon has on you, and it’s simple to request.
How to download all of your Amazon data
To start, head to this link, or go to Amazon’s Help page. You’ll find the link under Security and Privacy > More in Security & Privacy > Privacy > How Do I Request My Data? Once there, click the “Request My Data” link.
From the dropdown menu, choose the data you want from Amazon. If you want everything, choose “Request All Your Data.” Hit “Submit Request,” then click the validation link in your email. That’s it. Amazon makes it easy to see what the have on you, probably because they know you can’t do anything about it.