Alexa is listening —Bloomberg Reports thousands of Amazon employees listening to Alexa voice recordings.
Many have yet to latch on to having smart devices in their homes due to the thought that someone may be listening. According to the latest report by Bloomberg, Amazon is listening to what its users tell Alexa.
According to Bloomberg, thousands of Amazon employees worldwide help improve Alexa by listening to voice recordings captured in the Echo device owners’ homes. The report states that the recordings are transcribed, annotated and fed into the software to “eliminate gaps in Alexa’s understanding of human speech and help it better respond to commands.”
Reportedly, a team of contractors and full-time employees at Amazon work in locations around the world and signed non-disclosure agreements that bar them from speaking publicly about the program, according to Bloomberg.
“They work nine hours a day, with each reviewer parsing as many as 1,000 audio clips per shift, according to two workers based at Amazon’s Bucharest office, which takes up the top three floors of the Globalworth building in the Romanian capital’s up-and-coming Pipera district,” Bloomberg reports.
The report even states workers hear recordings that could be upsetting or possibly criminal.
“Two of the workers said they picked up what they believe was a sexual assault,” Bloomberg wrote. “When something like that happens, they may share the experience in the internal chat room as a way of relieving stress. Amazon says it has procedures in place for workers to follow when they hear something distressing, but two Romania-based employees said that, after requesting guidance for such cases, they were told it wasn’t Amazon’s job to interfere.”
According to Bloomberg, “Occasionally the listeners pick up things Echo owners likely would rather stay private: a woman singing badly off key in the shower, say, or a child screaming for help. The teams use internal chat rooms to share files when they need help parsing a muddled word—or come across an amusing recording.”
Amazon does give users the option of disabling the use of their voice recordings and people can opt out of the program. However, Bloomberg reports that Amazon stated that they still might have their recordings analyzed.
“A screenshot reviewed by Bloomberg shows that the recordings sent to the Alexa reviewers don’t provide a user’s full name and address but are associated with an account number, as well as the user’s first name and the devices serial number,” Bloomberg wrote.
Amazon responded to CNN Business, confirming Bloomberg’s report that it does in fact hire people to listen to what customers say to Alexa.
“But Amazon said it takes ‘security and privacy of our customers’ personal information seriously.’ The company said it only annotates an ‘extremely small number of interactions from a random set of customers’.”
According to Amazon’s Device Privacy statements for Alexa and Echo Devices, a recording of what you asked Alexa is sent to Amazon’s cloud, where the company processes the user’s request and other information to respond with Alexa. The privacy information states that Alexa is not recording all of a user’s conversations.
“No audio is stored or sent to the cloud unless the device detects the wake word (or Alexa is activated by pressing a button),” the policy states.
Users can review and delete their voice recordings, according to Amazon, under Alexa Account settings or in the Alexa app.
Source & full report: Bloomberg