Yes, Your Amazon Echo Why You Are Getting Those Ads

Source: The Register Yes, Your Amazon Echo Why You Are Getting Those Ads

Technically This Doesn’t Break Amazon’s Privacy Policy

A large team of researches from the University of Washington, University of California-Davis, University of California-Irvine, and Northeastern University have published  a paper titled, “Your Echos are heard: Tracking, profiling, and ad-targeting in the Amazon smart speaker ecosystem.”.  You can find a link to it at The Register, but in short it seems that your Echo devices “processes voice recordings from skill interactions to infer user interests and uses those interests to target ads.”

The lovely thing is that Amazon’s Privacy Policy doesn’t mention anything about Echo devices as far as using conversations it can hear and using them to target ads at you.  That means that they are still abiding by their own terms, as nasty as that may be to hear.  It is not just Amazon eavesdropping on you, the paper suggests that the data collected is shared with up to 41 other companies.  This is not to say they are selling the actual interactions to those companies, merely the information on which ads to target you with.

As you might expect, Amazon has some issues with the research, but follow ups seem to indicate that Amazon’s objections are not particularly relevant to the actual findings.  The technique they used to do the testing is yet another interesting use for a Raspberry Pi, so it is possible you might be able to replicate their findings on your own; if you are interested in tormenting your own Amazon Echo.

We also clarified that Amazon’s inference of advertising interests from users’ voice is potentially inconsistent with their public statements, but not their privacy policy. Amazon’s privacy policy neither acknowledges nor denies the usage of Echo interactions for ad targeting.

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About The Author

Jeremy Hellstrom

Call it,, or PC Perspective, Jeremy has been hanging out and then working with the gang here for years. Apart from the front page you might find him on the BOINC Forums or possibly the Fraggin' Frogs if he has the time.


  1. psuedonymous

    Important to note that what are being used for ad targeting are direct interactions (e.g. “Alexa, order some whatever”) and not general listening to all conversations in the vicinity. This is the vocal equivalent to using Amazon search terms (e.g. searching amazon for “Cat Litter”) to target ads (e.g. displaying ads for cat toys), rather than targeting ads based on overheard casual conversation in the vicinity.

    Ironically, most reporting on this ‘implies but does not state’ targeting based on overheard casual conversation, akin to the jab at the Amazon ToS.

    • LegoGuy23

      This is an important distinction.
      Thanks for sharing.

      • Jeremy Hellstrom

        It’s worth pointing out that when Amazon reached out to me about this post, that was not their concern. They only wanted to ensure I wasn’t stating they sell the actual voice recordings to third parties/


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