Smart Speaker manufacturers, like Google or Amazon, gather and store a variety of data that is being created when using one of their devices. This includes personal information you might give to them when creating an account, like your name, your age and your email address. However, additional information created by using the Smart Speakers is also stored by the manufacturers and include your IP-address and your location.
Every voice command you give to the Speaker will also be saved as an audio file and a transcript. Here is a detailed list of data collected by Amazon and Google. The information collected might vary, however, with changes in the terms of services and when using devices by different manufacturers. In cases where you are using services provided by other companies, like Spotify or a news channel, some of your information is shared with and stored by these entities. You can read more about it here.
For the manufacturers to store your data, they are using so-called data centers that are located in different locations all over the world. Which data center your device is communicating with depends on your location. Each one of these centers contains hundreds of servers that are responsible for storing and accessing the data gathered by Smart Speakers and other company services. The video below shows what these facilities look like in the case of Google.
It is important to note that once your device collects your data, it is stored on the servers indefinitely. This means that the manufacturer will not delete your data unless you use the appropriate privacy controls found in the settings of the companion app or on their website. They do so because every bit of data helps them gain better insights into the habits and preferences of their customers. Using this information they are able to, for example, give better answers to your voice commands. They are also utilizing this data to show you personalized advertisements that are based on your interests and preferences.
It’s so cheap to store all data. It’s cheaper to keep it than to delete it. And that means people will change their behavior because they know anything they say online can be used against them in the future.
Mikko Hypponen, security and privacy expert.