Amazon Reportedly Employs Thousands of People to Listen to Your Alexa Conversations

Irving Hamilton
April 13, 2019

"For example, we may use your commands, to Alexa, to train our systems for voice recognition and Understand natural language", it means General questions and answers on the Amazon page.

Amazon wants us to think of Alexa as a computer that does our bidding with the help of magical AI technology, but there's still a significant human component, according to an investigation by Bloomberg. The recordings are transcribed, annotated, then fed back as part of an effort to improve Alexa, the software that powers Echo devices.

Amazon customers have complained that their privacy has been violated after discovering that the company employs hundreds of people to listen to recordings of them speaking to their Alexa devices.

Bloomberg does also say that it has reviewed several of the submissions to Amazon's Alexa enhancement team from Alexa devices and much of the identifying information - like name and account number - are stripped out.

In the process, the employees gain access to things people would like to keep private, such as bank identification information, Bloomberg reports.

But they insisted that "all information is treated with high confidentiality" using "multi-factor authentication to restrict access, service encryption, and audits of our control environment to protect it".

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While rules are in place so that the conversations are never made public, two Amazon workers say that they believe they heard a sexual assault being recorded. "When something like that happens, they may share the experience in the internal chat room as a way of relieving stress", the report said. Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) has thousands of people on its payroll whose job it is to listen to voice recordings that its Echo devices pick up, according to a Wednesday Bloomberg report.

Local and federal law enforcement - including the FBI - sought data from almost 700,000 user accounts in a just a one-year period, according to so-called "transparency reports" released twice a year by the big tech companies.

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.

Amazon doesn't exactly advertise the human role in its AI assistant.

Two "reviewers", the employees who listen to and transcribe the sound, were interviewed by Bloomberg. It says it only collects random samples of interactions and deletes the data after its analyzed.

Concerns have been raised by some in the past that smart speaker systems could be used to constantly listen in to user conversations, often with the aim of targeting users with relevant advertising. Google has humans working on Assistant, but audio recordings are intentionally distorted, and there's no account data associated with them.

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