You might not have found it among the myriad options on the site, but it’s possible to request every piece of personal data Amazon holds about you and your family. And when we say every piece, we mean every piece. If you’re a long-term Amazon customer with Alexa devices dotted through your home, prepare for gigabyte upon gigabyte of data. So what do you get when you request your Amazon data? Let’s find out.
How do you request your Amazon data?
To request your Amazon data, visit the company’s website, log in (if you haven’t already done so) and click on the link at the top of the page that says Hello, [Your name], Account & Lists. From that drop-down menu select Your Account. Scroll down to the bottom of the page that opens, and in the Data and Privacy box select Request Your Information.
On the screen that follows, you’ll be asked to confirm which information you would like to receive. The very bottom option lets you select all of it. Follow the on-screen instructions after that.
Note that after you’ve submitted your request, you’ll be sent an email in which you have to click a link to confirm the data request.
How long does it take Amazon to send you your data?
A long time. I requested my information on October 31 and it took Amazon until November 9 to send it through, so ten days. However, I did request everything, so it might take less time if you’re only after selected information.
You have 90 days to download your data from Amazon, from the date the company sends you an email to say it’s ready for you.
What data does Amazon send you?
In my case, by far and away the biggest chunk of data was recordings of voice commands issued to Alexa devices. Thousands and thousands of them. I wouldn’t mind betting Amazon has kept every single command we’ve issued to an Alexa device and sent them to me.
Along with all the .wav audio files of the recordings, Amazon sends a spreadsheet containing transcripts of what it heard (or what it thought it heard) and Alexa’s response. These are timestamped. My data includes recordings going back to 2016!
It’s actually quite creepy listening to yourself issuing inane commands to Alexa from years gone by, let alone your kids doing likewise.
What else does Amazon send you? There are several folders dealing with ads, alerts and other Amazon services, but most of the detail contained in these spreadsheets contains no meaningful information. It’s mainly identifiers that only Amazon could ever decipher.
The Amazon Music folders contain a complete history of every song you’ve ever listened to on Amazon Music, including for how long you listened to that track and whether you reached the end of it. There’s also a list of every Amazon Music search you’ve made and ‘radio’ stations you’ve listened to. The same goes for any Audible audiobooks you’ve listened to, along with a complete list of sessions.
My Amazon data also includes a complete list of all my contacts, including their email addresses and mobile numbers – presumably because Alexa sucked all these in so it could make calls. That means there’s a strong chance Amazon has your contact details stored somewhere, even if you’ve never been an Amazon customer (although I’m not suggesting Amazon is doing anything untoward with that data).
In another spreadsheet, called “Streaming Events” in the Kindle folder, Amazon seems to keep a record of my children’s age (perhaps estimated), gender and – oddly – the orientation in which they were facing while using (I think) Kindle tablets.
On the retail side of things, there are extensive spreadsheets showing order histories, returns, interactions with customer service teams and how you responded to various promotions.
Nested in a folder called “Smart Home” is another curious spreadsheet called Device-State-1, which appears to be taking regular temperature readings. I presume this is an Alexa smart speaker, but I had no idea it was even capable of taking temperature readings, let alone what it’s doing with them. Maybe it’s some kind of device health check?
There’s tons and tons of other folders and data contained in my Amazon files. I’ve prodded into the most interesting looking folders, but I’m sure there’s other stuff I’ve missed. If you find anything alarming in your Amazon data, be sure to let me know on comments below.
Even with the stuff I’ve found, it’s alarming how much data Amazon is storing about its customers – and what would happen if that data fell into the wrong hands. Make sure your Amazon account is well protected with strong passwords and two-factor authentication. Then cross your fingers that Amazon’s servers never leak this stuff to attackers…