Amazon admits workers listen to Alexa conversations

By aoligschlaeger on April 11, 2019
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“Alexa, play ‘Somebody’s Watching Me’ by Rockwell.”

In a report published by Bloomberg on Thursday, Amazon admitted that their employees listen to and transcribe thousands of Alexa recordings every day. The tech company is doing this to improve speech recognition software and overall user experience, according to the report.

“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,” the report said.

Every move we make, every step we take… They’ll be watching us?

Well, not exactly. Amazon did clarify that “an extremely small sample of Alexa voice recordings,” are analyzed by staff. And most of the recordings analyzed are for specific utterances like “Alexa, play Imagine Dragons.” Employees annotate samples for speech variances and then feed them back into the software to help it recognize regional variances in pronunciation, less precisely articulated requests, etc.

Amazon also emphasized its strict security measures.

“We take the security and privacy of our customers’ personal information seriously,” an Amazon spokesman said in an emailed statement. “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 told, it sounds like Alexa is probably a pretty safe houseguest… For now.

“Alexa, play that spooky ‘dun-dun-DUN!’ sound effect.”

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