Amazon Echo Wants to Come Home With You

Amazon Introduces Amazon Echo: Always connected.

Remember when everyone raised a giant stink about discontinuing cursive in elementary schools? Well we might as well throw spelling and memorization out the window also as the first generation of social robots begin invading homes. Riding on the tails of Jibo and directly challenging Siri, Amazon Echo is out of beta, ready for consumer use and will start shipping on July 14. We decided to take a closer look (and watch a couple of really painful videos) to find out more.

What is it?

Amazon Echo is a black cylinder tube which is touted as never needing charging (note that they neglect to show you the cord in the videos). Inside the black tube sit seven microphones, all engineered to pick up your voice from anywhere in the room and even during extremely noisy conditions. This should come in handy when you need to ask how to spell cantaloupe from the comfort of your couch. Some of the key features Amazon Echo supports are relaying information, listening to music, audiobooks, news, weather, traffic, sports, and more–instantly.

 

Amazon Echo

Image via Amazon.com

How does it work?

Echo is voice activated and you can name it anything you want (as long as it’s Amazon or Alexa). Depending on which name you choose, that is considered the “wake word” and any time you want to ask a question or give a command you’ll have to start your sentence with that word. Echo sits patiently waiting to hear the wake word and serve your every need. Your voice queries are stored in the cloud-based voice service called (surprise) Alexa and can be managed from the app. We’re not quite clear if deleting queries permanently deletes them from the cloud or not. Echo can also allow purchases by voice with an optional required speakable confirmation code and using your default shipping and purchase information.

Amazon Echo

Image via Amazon.com

Is Amazon spying on me?

I mean, this was the first question that popped into my head. Let’s face it, any website you visit is tracking you through anonymous browser cookies. I decided to look through the Amazon Echo Terms of Use for details on how Amazon is storing information during usage.

Amazon states:

Information. The Software will provide Amazon with information about use of your Amazon Echo and its interaction with the Digital Content and the Services (such as voice information, content metadata, and location). Amazon Echo may also exchange information with third party services to fulfill your requests, like your zip code when you ask for the weather or your personalized stations with our music partners. Learn more. Information provided to Amazon may be stored on servers outside the country in which you live. We will handle any information we receive in accordance with the Amazon.com Privacy Notice.”

What is that tricky little “Learn more” link leading to?

This link lead me into an FAQs page where a few of my key questions were answered.

“5. Can I turn off the Amazon Echo microphone?

Yes, you can turn Amazon Echo’s microphone off by pushing the microphone on/off button on the top of your Amazon Echo. When the light ring around the top of Amazon Echo turns red, the microphone is off. Amazon Echo will not respond to the wake word, nor will it respond to the action button, until you reactivate the microphone by pushing the microphone on/off button again. Even when the Amazon Echo microphone is off, Amazon Echo will still respond to requests you make through your Amazon Echo remote.

8. Can I delete all my voice recordings?

Yes, you can delete the Amazon Echo voice recordings. Doing so will delete related Home Screen cards, and may degrade your experience using Amazon Echo. To delete the recordings associated with your account, visit Manage Your Content and Devices at www.amazon.com/myx and select Amazon Echo, or contact customer service. While a deletion request is being processed, the Amazon Echo App may still display and allow you to play back the voice recordings that are being deleted. You can delete specific voice interactions with Amazon Echo by going to History in Settings in the Amazon Echo App, drilling down for a specific entry, and then tapping the delete button.

9. What happens when I delete voice recordings?

When you choose to delete voice recordings, we will also remove Home Screen Cards related to those voice recordings. When you remove a Home Screen Card from your Amazon Echo App, we will not delete voice recordings related to that card. You can delete individual voice recordings by going to History in Settings in the Amazon Echo App.”

Has anyone actually bothered to read the Amazon.com Privacy Notice? Where is my information being shared? 

Here are the ways Amazon could potentially share your information.

Does Amazon.com Share the Information It Receives?

Information about our customers is an important part of our business, and we are not in the business of selling it to others. We share customer information only as described below and with subsidiaries Amazon.com, Inc. controls that either are subject to this Privacy Notice or follow practices at least as protective as those described in this Privacy Notice.

  • Affiliated Businesses We Do Not Control: We work closely with affiliated businesses. In some cases, such as Marketplace sellers, these businesses operate stores at Amazon.com or sell offerings to you at Amazon.com. In other cases, we operate stores, provide services, or sell product lines jointly with these businesses. Click here for some examples of co-branded and joint offerings. You can tell when a third party is involved in your transactions, and we share customer information related to those transactions with that third party.
  • Third-Party Service Providers: We employ other companies and individuals to perform functions on our behalf. Examples include fulfilling orders, delivering packages, sending postal mail and e-mail, removing repetitive information from customer lists, analyzing data, providing marketing assistance, providing search results and links (including paid listings and links), processing credit card payments, and providing customer service. They have access to personal information needed to perform their functions, but may not use it for other purposes.
  • Promotional Offers: Sometimes we send offers to selected groups of Amazon.com customers on behalf of other businesses. When we do this, we do not give that business your name and address. If you do not want to receive such offers, please adjust your Customer Communication Preferences .
  • Business Transfers: As we continue to develop our business, we might sell or buy stores, subsidiaries, or business units. In such transactions, customer information generally is one of the transferred business assets but remains subject to the promises made in any pre-existing Privacy Notice (unless, of course, the customer consents otherwise). Also, in the unlikely event that Amazon.com, Inc., or substantially all of its assets are acquired, customer information will of course be one of the transferred assets.
  • Protection of Amazon.com and Others: We release account and other personal information when we believe release is appropriate to comply with the law; enforce or apply our Conditions of Use and other agreements; or protect the rights, property, or safety of Amazon.com, our users, or others. This includes exchanging information with other companies and organizations for fraud protection and credit risk reduction. Obviously, however, this does not include selling, renting, sharing, or otherwise disclosing personally identifiable information from customers for commercial purposes in violation of the commitments set forth in this Privacy Notice.
  • With Your Consent: Other than as set out above, you will receive notice when information about you might go to third parties, and you will have an opportunity to choose not to share the information.

And here are the types of information collected and the partners they share it with:

Examples of Information Collected

Information You Give Us (This means everything you do on the site or in relation to Amazon in collected)

You provide most such information when you search, buy, post, participate in a contest or questionnaire, or communicate with customer service. For example, you provide information when you search for a product; place an order through Amazon.com or one of our third-party sellers; provide information in Your Account (and you might have more than one if you have used more than one e-mail address when shopping with us) or Your Profile ; communicate with us by phone, e-mail, or otherwise; complete a questionnaire or a contest entry form; use our services such as Amazon Instant Video; compile Wish Lists or other gift registries; participate in Discussion Boards or other community features; provide and rate Reviews; and employ Product Availability Alerts, such as Available to Order Notifications. As a result of those actions, you might supply us with such information as your name, address, and phone numbers; credit card information; people to whom purchases have been shipped, including addresses and phone number; people (with addresses and phone numbers) listed in 1-Click settings; e-mail addresses of your friends and other people; content of reviews and e-mails to us; personal description and photograph in Your Profile ; and financial information, including Social Security and driver’s license numbers.

Automatic Information

Examples of the information we collect and analyze include the Internet protocol (IP) address used to connect your computer to the Internet; login; e-mail address; password; computer and connection information such as browser type, version, and time zone setting, browser plug-in types and versions, operating system, and platform; purchase history, which we sometimes aggregate with similar information from other customers to create features like Top Sellers ; the full Uniform Resource Locator (URL) clickstream to, through, and from our Web site, including date and time; cookie number; products you viewed or searched for; and the phone number you used to call our 800 number. We may also use browser data such as cookies, Flash cookies (also known as Flash Local Shared Objects), or similar data on certain parts of our Web site for fraud prevention and other purposes. During some visits we may use software tools such as JavaScript to measure and collect session information, including page response times, download errors, length of visits to certain pages, page interaction information (such as scrolling, clicks, and mouse-overs), and methods used to browse away from the page. We may also collect technical information to help us identify your device for fraud prevention and diagnostic purposes.

Mobile (This means they are able to track your location.)

Most mobile devices provide users with the ability to disable location services. Most likely, these controls are located in the device’s settings menu. For information about specific devices, click here . If you have questions about how to disable your device’s location services, we recommend you contact your mobile service carrier or your device manufacturer.

Information from Other Sources

Examples of information we receive from other sources include updated delivery and address information from our carriers or other third parties, which we use to correct our records and deliver your next purchase or communication more easily; account information, purchase or redemption information, and page-view information from some merchants with which we operate co-branded businesses or for which we provide technical, fulfillment, advertising, or other services; search term and search result information from some searches conducted through the Web search features offered by our subsidiary, Alexa Internet; search results and links, including paid listings (such as Sponsored Links); and credit history information from credit bureaus, which we use to help prevent and detect fraud and to offer certain credit or financial services to some customers.

Co-branded and Joint Offerings

Examples of businesses with which we offer joint or co-branded products and other offerings include Starbucks, OfficeMax, Verizon Wireless, Sprint, T-Mobile, AT&T, J&R Electronics, Eddie Bauer and Northern Tool + Equipment.

Information You Can Access

Examples of information you can access easily at Amazon.com include up-to-date information regarding recent orders; personally identifiable information (including name, e-mail, password, communications and personalized advertising preferences, address book, and 1-Click settings); payment settings (including credit card information and promotional certificate and gift card balances); e-mail notification settings (including Product Availability Alerts, Delivers, and newsletters); Recommendations (including Recommended for You and Improve Your Recommendations); shopping lists and gift registries (including Wish Lists and Baby and Wedding Registries); Seller accounts; and Your Profile (including your product Reviews, Recommendations, Listmania lists, Reminders, personal profile, and Wish List).

Which leads us to our last question. Why is this promotional video SO painful to watch?

That is a tough question to answer.

 

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