Throughout the years we have been seeing more and more regarding smartphone providers, social media giants, and more invading our privacy, but it seems Amazon is currently taking the cake. A somewhat-recent Bloomberg report has revealed a lot of shocking news and it might have you ready to never use Alexa again.
According to this Bloomberg report (that cites sources who actually worked in doing the things noted above and below), Amazon employs thousands of people who work to basically listen in on the things we are saying back and forth with our Alexa devices. It seems the team itself that works to do this is global and Amazon claims this is done to ‘help the voice-activated assistant respond’ more properly.
Considering the tens of millions of people using smart speakers of some kind, this is quite alarming. While Amazon claims Alexa lives in the cloud and is always getting smarter, people are a big part of her intelligence and how it grows. Workers who review these recordings spend about nine hours each day listening through as many as one thousand audio clips each shift. While overall this is innocent enough it isn’t always what you’d expect it to be. Occasionally listeners have heard things like people singing in the shower, children screaming for help, and so much more.
Sometimes they hear recordings they find upsetting, or possibly criminal. Two of the workers said they picked up what they believe was a sexual assault. When something like that happens, they may share the experience in the internal chat room as a way of relieving stress. Amazon says it has procedures in place for workers to follow when they hear something distressing, but two Romania-based employees said that, after requesting guidance for such cases, they were told it wasn’t Amazon’s job to interfere.
“We take the security and privacy of our customers’ personal information seriously,” an Amazon spokesman said in an emailed statement. “We only annotate an extremely small sample of Alexa voice recordings in order [to] improve the customer experience. For example, this information helps us train our speech recognition and natural language understanding systems, so Alexa can better understand your requests, and ensure the service works well for everyone.
“We have strict technical and operational safeguards and have a zero-tolerance policy for the abuse of our system. Employees do not have direct access to information that can identify the person or account as part of this workflow. 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.”
All of this having been said, even if you choose to opt-out of having your recordings sorted through in your device settings, some of them will likely still end up being sorted through eventually. Each device and its recordings are locked in with a user’s first name, the devices serial number and account number.
When we are sitting at home using our smart speakers we don’t often consider what might be happening through them. The idea that someone might be listening is a bit unsettling and perhaps in many ways controversial. In a world that is progressing so much when it comes to technology we are most likely going to be seeing more and more of this kind of thing but is that good or bad?
Sure, a smarter device is great but is it worth it to put your privacy in jeopardy like this? I guess it all boils down to each person and how they take things. We’ve been hearing a lot of strange things in regards to Alexa in current times and it is important to note that just last year an Echo device recorded a conversation between a woman and her husband only to send it to a contact in the husband’s phone somehow.
What do you think about all of this? Do you think this is a good thing or a bad thing? I for one am quite on the fence and confused in a lot of ways. For more information please feel free to check out the video below.