Watch what you say to your Amazon Echo. Amazon may give developers transcripts of your conversations with your Amazon Alexa personal assistant so they can build smarter, more responsive software, according to a new report.
Alexa is the smart assistant software running on Amazon Echo and a few other devices, which can take pizza orders, summon a ride service, or check the weather via voice requests.
Such information sharing would be useful for developers who want to provide more valuable services to customers who want more accurate responses. But such data sharing may also creep out others who already worry about the privacy of their interactions with smart home devices and how that data is used by their technology providers.
Amazon (AMZN) already shares conversation transcripts with select “white listed” developers, an unnamed source told tech news site The Information, which broke the story. Google also reportedly shares chat information from Google Home with developers, according to the Information.
Amazon (AMZN) did not comment for that story. But in a follow-up by The Verge, a spokesman said that when a customer uses an Alexa Skill—Amazon’s term for app—the company provides the developer of that app with information needed to process the request. “We do not share customer identifiable information to third-party skills without the customer’s consent. We do not share audio recordings with developers,” the spokesman said.
Fortune contacted Amazon for comment and will update this story as needed.
Given that both Microsoft (MSFT) and Apple (AAPL) are working on Echo competitors, Amazon will face increased competition from two very resource-rich rivals. Both the Microsoft Invoke and Apple HomePod gadgets are due this fall. (Amazon is reportedly working on a new Echo with better sound capabilities, according to Engadget.)
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Curt Barrentine is a financial services executive and self-professed geek who uses several Echos as well as a Google Home device at his house and has installed an Amazon Echo Show (which adds a screen to the Echo speaker) for an elderly relative. He said he has no problem with Amazon sharing an anonymous transcript of his interactions if it makes the service better. He would draw the line at an actual audio recording however.
Alexa does record conversations once the user says its “wake word”— either Amazon or Alexa or computer—and some of that information is shared back to Amazon’s cloud. Users can track what is recorded from the smart phone device that is paired with the home speaker and erase interactions as needed.
Barrentine explains to Fortune how Alexa clearly learns by doing: “A few months ago I asked Alexa what time it would be in eight hours so I could set my alarm. And she couldn’t do that. This week, she can.”
The issue with smart systems like Alexa—or Google Home or Apple’s upcoming HomePod—is that they get better as they are exposed to more information, much of which comes from user interaction. That quid pro quo is more attractive for some people than for others.