If you ever suspected that your voice-command enabled tech gadgets were listening in on your conversations, your suspicions would be correct. A recent report from Bloomberg revealed that Amazon has hired employees specifically to listen in on various clips recorded by its own Alexa voice assistant, through devices such as the Amazon Echo. The report confirms that Alexa will occasionally record conversations and speech that users may not be too fond of sharing, such as embarrassing, unsettling, or even criminal ones. The intention of the exercise is to improve Alexa’s responses by better finding what its users are asking for. In cases of criminal activity, Amazon has a policy for employees to report it to supervisors, though it seems the company leans towards non-interference.
Reassuring its customers, Amazon told Bloomberg that the clips do not contain any identifying data, and are securely protected: ”We take the security and privacy of our customers’ personal information seriously. We only annotate an extremely small sample of Alexa voice recordings in order [to] improve the customer experience. We have strict technical and operational safeguards, and have a zero tolerance policy for the abuse of our system.”
While users can access Alexa’s privacy setting to opt out of having their voice recordings used for development purposes by Amazon, the company says that the users’ recordings may nevertheless be analyzed over a regular review process.