Sci-tech

When you talk to Alexa, an Amazon employee may be listening too

When you talk to Alexa, an Amazon employee may be listening too

According to the report, thousands of Amazon workers are listening to the conversations that Alexa devices are having with their owners. Each reviewer is expected to check about 1,000 audio files in each shift, two of the workers told Bloomberg.

The workers transcribe clips of conversations and annotate them to improve the software's understanding of human speech, according to a report from Bloomberg.

Obviously, with recording devices in a load of rooms, eventually they are going to pick up something criminal.

"We take the security and privacy of our customers' personal information seriously", the Amazon spokesman said in the statement. Now a new report has surfaced online highlighting that Amazon employees can listen to the voice recordings of Amazon Echo users captured in homes and offices.

The company has allegedly used an army of human beings to listen to audio clips from Alexa devices and grade the interactions.

"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".

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Alexa software is created to continuously record snatches of audio listening for its wake word, Bloomberg alleged, adding that clips assessed by workers included what they believed to be sexual assault and a child screaming. "All information is treated with high confidentiality and we use multi-factor authentication to restrict access, service encryption, and audits of our control environment to protect it", the spokesperson said. Amazon says that they have protocols and help in place for people who hear anything distressing. The human listens to the audio clip, transcribes it, and adds annotations to help Amazon's algorithms get better.

However, as any user of a smart speaker knows, ambient noise can be mistaken for the wake word, triggering the recording by accident.

Recordings sent to the human teams do not provide full names, but they do connect to an account name, device serial number, and the user's first name to clips. The marketing materials for the Echo claim "Alexa lives in the cloud and is always getting smarter", only hinting in the lengthy Alexa FAQ that "We use your requests to Alexa to train our speech recognition and natural language understanding systems". Amazon believes this is an essential way to improve the service, but it raises numerous privacy concerns.

A new survey from JD Power has revealed that auto owners want their vehicles to use the same brand of voice recognition software which they use in their homes, rather than those developed by auto manufacturers themselves.

Both Apple and Google also use voice recordings to improve their assistant products, and both companies strip all identifiable information about the individuals in the recordings. Amazon's privacy policy is vague when it should be explicit and direct with what it does with customer information.

Fraudsters could then use this live audio feed to collect sensitive information from the device.