Amazon Workers May Be Listening to Your Alexa Conversations

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A new report from Bloomberg may have shed some light on how Amazon uses employees and contractors in an attempt to train its Alexa smart assistant to better understand words and phrases.

It is reported that thousands of Amazon workers listen to recordings of what people tell Alexa and transcribe them to improve the Echo Dot. Screenshots of the review process provided to Bloomberg indicate each audio clip is tied to an account number and device serial number.

It also said these chat rooms were used to help identify muddled words, as well as to share amusing recordings. 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.

So if you want to make sure that no one's listening to what you say to your Alexa device, it's easy enough to disable the option that allows Amazon to use your voice recordings for the development of new features.

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. You'll be taken to Amazon's external Alexa privacy page.

A global team at Amazon are reportedly reviewing audio clips of people speaking to their Alexa-powered Echo smart speakers.

Thousands of people are employed by Amazon to listen to voice recordings captured by Echo speakers to improve the software, according to Bloomberg. The goal is to improve human speech comprehension in Alexa, Amazon's voice assistant. That's perhaps the most common fear associated with devices with microphones, and a huge part of what's fueled increased scrutiny on how companies handle data collected by their smart products. Its simply says in its FAQs that "We use your requests to Alexa to train our speech recognition and natural language understanding systems".

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What else have they heard?

When the reviewers hear private information that has been accidentally recorded, they are meant to flag it as critical data and move on to the next recording.

It is not the first time Amazon has been found to be relying on human labour for its smart services.

Amazon says it has internal procedures for when employees hear something disturbing, but when Bloomberg spoke to employees, they said they were told "it wasn't Amazon's job to interfere".

Apple does not let you listen back to Siri recordings.

For instance, in 2017, the business expense management app Expensify admitted that it had been using humans to transcribe at least some of the receipts it claimed to process using its "smartscan technology", while Facebook was more open about the fact that a short-lived personal assistant, M, was an explicit blend of human and automatic responses.