Report reveals that Amazon staff listen to Alexa recordings


It should be remembered that the Echo smart speaker, which is powered by Alexa artificial intelligence, continuously listens to ambient sounds, but only sends recordings to be stored on Amazon's servers following a "wake word" such as "Echo", "Amazon" or "Alexa".

Thousands of Amazon employees and contractors can listen to what you say to Alexa via Alexa-enabled smart devices like Amazon's Echo smart speaker, according to a Bloomberg report published Wednesday.

"Apple's Siri also has human helpers, who work to gauge whether the digital assistant's interpretation of requests lines up with what the person said".

When they hear such things, the employees are encouraged to share their experience in an internal chat room as a way to relieve stress and cope with their feelings.

Bloomberg states that, according to a screenshot they've seen, the recordings the reviewers go through do not provide the user's full name or address but they do show the account number, the user's first name and the device's serial number - which should be more than enough to raise a few concerned eyebrows.

In response to growing privacy concerns amongst its smart speaker users, Amazon stated that the entire process it uses does take into account the security and privacy of all its customers.

Amazon added that it employs "strict technical and operational safeguards" and that it imposes "zero tolerance policy for the abuse of our system".

It was also stated that all of the information gathered is treated with high confidentiality and several security measures are in place throughout their facilities such as multi-factor authentication, encryption, and constant audits.

What exactly is Amazon Alexa listening for?

Amazon has admitted to using human workers to annotate voice recordings.

Amazon employees are listening to what people tell Alexa - the company's voice recognition-based AI software - in the intimacy of their homes, a Bloomberg report revealed Thursday. But she has a team of humans helping her improve her skills. They were apparently told that they couldn't do anything about it, because it's not Amazon's job to interfere.

Amazon devices rely on microphones listening out for a key word, which can be triggered by accident and without their owner's realisation.

Amazon doesn't exactly advertise the human role in its AI assistant. They work throughout the world. Its simply says in its FAQs that "We use your requests to Alexa to train our speech recognition and natural language understanding systems".

In Alexa's privacy settings, Amazon gives users the option of disabling the use of their voice recordings for the development of new features. Apple's Siri and Google's Assistant both have teams that listen in to help improve its AI's machine learning, though both of these programs reportedly do not listen to audio with personal identifying information.