As recent news indicates that Amazon, Inc. is positioning Alexa, its cloud-based voice service, to track consumer prescriptions and relay personal health information, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis urges consumers to be aware of the potential health data privacy risks. This news follows revelations that Amazon pays employees to listen to actual users’ audio files.
CFO Jimmy Patronis said, “How comfortable are you with a complete stranger listening to audio files from your home? That’s a reality with Amazon’s Alexa technology. Although it’s built to make our lives easier and more productive, there are real privacy risks.“Not only should you beef up your privacy protections when bringing an Alexa device into your home, but also make sure you weigh the risks when sharing personal information especially prescriptions or other medical information. Due to just one major data breach in 2017, 143 million Americans now face the potential of lifelong threats of identity theft. It’s only a matter of time before voice technology suffers a breach.”
With new technology, Amazon says Alexa can now transfer sensitive health information to and from your pharmacy. We now know Amazon employs thousands of staff members dedicated to improving the Alexa digital assistant. Beware and use the privacy tips below to protect your personal data.
3 Tips for Protecting Your Privacy While Using Alexa:
- Turn off the mic and camera when you aren’t using your Alexa device. Alexa products capture all voice commands and other sounds in the room. If you know you won’t be using your device, turn your mic off to ensure it can’t record things being said. Newer devices have cameras, so make sure you disable that function when not in use.
- Delete old Alexa recordings. All recordings remain on the Amazon cloud until you delete them. This can include conversations you’ve had disclosing private information. Listen to and clear out your stored recordings by going to Settings > History in the Alexa app. You can also utilize the dashboard available at Amazon.com.
- Limit or disable Drop In permissions immediately. The Drop In feature on Alexa devices is designed to create an intercom system with another device. Be extremely cautious when allowing any Drop In permissions to your device as it allows others to access your mic and speaker. The other user can be in just the other room or in a completely different city.
About CFO Jimmy Patronis
Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis is a statewide elected official and a member of Florida’s Cabinet who oversees the Department of Financial Services. CFO Patronis works each day to fight insurance fraud, support Florida’s firefighters, and ensure the state’s finances are stable to support economic growth in the state. Follow the activities of the Department on Facebook (FLDFS) and Twitter (@FLDFS).