Thousands Of Amazon Staff Listen To Alexa Requests

Amazon workers eavesdrop on your talks with Alexa

News site Bloomberg highlighted the topic after speaking to Amazon staff who "reviewed" Alexa recordings.

Thousands of Amazon employees around the world listen to voice recordings collected by the company's Echo devices, according to a Bloomberg report. An investigation by Bloomberg has revealed that Amazon has a global team that transcribes and annonates Alexa recordings from around to world to "eliminate gaps in Alexa's understanding of human speech" and allow the assistant to serve up better responses to your queries.

"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".

Perhaps most disturbingly, two sources based in Romania told Bloomberg they believe they overheard a sexual assault.

In a statement given to Bloomberg, Amazon said: "We take the security and privacy of our customers' personal information seriously". The company says it masks the sources of the recordings and samples only a small, random number each day.

Amazon insists it has a zero tolerance policy for "abuse of our system" and claims to use multi-factor authentication and encryption to protect customer recordings during the annotation process.

Amazon devices have previously been activated when they're not wanted - meaning the devices could be listening. According to former employees of Amazon's voice review program, the company employs thousands to review recordings from the devices.

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.




But two employees said that after requesting guidance for such cases, they were told "it wasn't 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.

The idea is AI algorithms can only improve over time if the data they get can easily be parsed and sorted into categories.

In a list of FAQs Amazon does admit it uses consumer requests to train Alexa's speech recognition and natural language understanding systems.

Amazon doesn't exactly advertise the human role in its AI assistant. The workers also have no way of identifying who they are listening to as any personal or account information is removed.

Users are given the option to disable the use of their voice recordings for product development. Reviewers have encountered many questions like, "Do you work for the NSA?" or "Alexa, is someone else listening to us?". You can also listen to and delete previous voice recordings.

Google and Apple use the same method of human analysis for audio recorded by their Google Home and Siri systems.

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