Amazon's being greasy about Alexa user data. Again.

Remember when Amazon introduced the ability for folks easily delete their conversations with any of the Alexa wiretap they'd foolishly allowed into their homes? Boom! Gone! No more voice history! Everyone with one of the company's smart speakers could rest easy knowing that their personal information and shopping habits wouldn't be available for the marketing world to get its grubby meathooks on. HAHAHAAHAHAHA Yeah, that was bullshit. Even if you wipe your conversations with Alexa from your Amazon devices, Amazon still retains some information.

From CNET: ... Amazon noted that for Alexa requests that involve a transaction, like ordering a pizza or hailing a rideshare, Amazon and the skill's developers can keep a record of that transaction. That means that there's a record of nearly every purchase you make on Amazon's Alexa, which can be considered personal information.

Other requests, including setting reminders and alarms, would also remain saved, Huseman noted, saying that this was a feature customers wanted.

It gets better: Amazon says that they use this personal information to train Alexa to be an even better wiretap than it already is. What they don't say, however, is what third-parties, such as outside Alexa skill developers and marketers, are allowed to do with this leftover data.

Apparently, the only way to be sure that all of a customer's user data has been obliterated from the company's servers is for them to call customer service and demand that the personal information be nuked from orbit. Of course, given that the company has already been all kinds of greasy about promising to make personal data deletion a simple task for folks to undertake once, there's no guarantee that they won't quietly screw their users again. Read the rest

Apple's bi-annual report on government data requests is available to read

A couple of times a year, Apple plops out a report detailing all of the user data requests made by government and law enforcement agencies from around the world. In the latest bi-annual report, it looks like information requests have increased since the last reporting period.

From Engadget:

According to the report, which covers the first half of this year, Apple received 32,342 demands for user data from governments -- up 9 percent from the previous period -- spanning access to 163,823 devices. Germany made the most requests (42 percent), the majority of which were due to "stolen devices investigations," issuing 13,704 requests for data on 26,160 devices.

The US was in second place with 4,570 requests for 14,911 devices. More than half of these requests (2,397) were for users' basic account information or content, revealed Apple. The US also asked for 918 financial identifiers -- which cover suspected fraudulent credit, debit, or gift card transactions -- attributing them to iTunes gift card fraud.

It used to be that the report was only offered as a dense, boring PDF. But Apple, in an attempt to boost their corporate transparency, has made their report numbers available to peruse via an interactive website that can be searched by country and the month that the user data was requested.

According to Engadget, Apple's report doesn't include the number of FISA requests made, as there is a legally binding six-month delay required on reportage of such requests.

If you're an Apple hardware or services user, it's worth taking a quick jaunt over to the company's transparency website to see what kind of user information your government has been trying to get their hands on. Read the rest