Thousands of Amazon workers are listening to recordings of Echo users

Amazon alexa opt out recordings

Amazon alexa opt out recordings

The company states that with the Echo Link and the Echo Link Amp customers will be able to upgrade their stereo system and use the company's digital voice assistant, Alexa, with a compatible Echo device.

But a real-life stranger could potentially be listening to anything you tell Alexa by design, per a report in Bloomberg on Wednesday.

Amazon employees are also able to listen to accidental recordings from customers around the world, including in the United Kingdom, made when the devices think that they hear the word "Alexa".

Amazon is using a team of human staff to eavesdrop on queries made to Amazon Alexa-enabled smart speakers in a bid to improve the voice assistant's accuracy, a new report suggests.

They added that the process "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 process is necessary because Alexa has limits to its ability to train itself, especially when it comes to garbled phrasing, accents, slang, regional words, other languages, and the like. But she has a team of humans helping her improve her skills.

As a result, workers occasionally hear things they shouldn't.

Newer is "self learning", in which Alexa tries to pick up on context clues to understand commands which aren't issued in a hyper-specific way (i.e., "Alexa, play 102.5 FM The Bone" vs "Alexa, play The Bone").

"User voice recordings are saved for a six-month period so that the recognition system can utilize them to better understand the user's voice", the white paper says. "Our systems need to learn how to improve themselves".

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The report claimed staff had on occasions reported hearing recordings they described as distressing, but Amazon said it had procedures in place for workers to follow when they heard such audio, including sharing via an internal chat room to relieve stress.

Staff would then share some recordings among themselves through an internal Amazon chat room when they were hard to understand - or if they found them amusing.

Users can opt out of their recordings being used for development purposes, but Amazon doesn't explicitly tell Echo customers that humans might be listening to them.

If the wake word is not heard, the audio is discarded.

In a statement, Amazon said it took security and privacy seriously and only annotated "an extremely small sample of Alexa voice recordings".

'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".

If you check out your Amazon Echo smart speaker's history via the Alexa app (Alexa account - History), depending on where and when you use the device, you may see little more than general, genuine queries.

Both Apple and Google also use voice recordings to improve their assistant products, and both companies strip all identifiable information about the individuals in the recordings.

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