Amazon Employees Listen To Alexa Voice Recordings for Improvement Purposes

The Echo Input turns dumb speakers into Alexa-capable smart ones.                  Tyler Lizenby  CNET

Amazon's voice assistant Alexa is used by millions across the world in their smart homes to play games or to listen to music. That's perhaps the most common fear associated with devices with microphones, and a huge part of what's fueled increased scrutiny on how companies handle data collected by their smart products. This revelation won't surprise those who understand machine learning, but Amazon doesn't directly acknowledge in its marketing and privacy policy materials that humans listen to Alexa's recordings.

Amazon employees have been secretly listening back to and mocking the things that customers ask Alexa and are sharing recordings of them in internal chat rooms, it has emerged.

Amazon "human" workers are listening to conversations to improve its responses says Bloomberg in a new report. Global News notes that Amazon employees are not able to come forward and discuss what is happening because those staff involved have signed non-disclosure agreements. They said they worked "nine hours a day, with each reviewer parsing as many as 1,000 audio clips per shift".

The work is mostly mundane. When the team can not ascertain what a particular word is, they use internal chat rooms to share files with each other. In such cases, the employees are given a procedure to follow.

According to a Bloomberg report on the issue, a number of Amazon staff tasked with listening to the recordings said they picked up what they thought was a sexual assault. However, the system often activates by mistake, triggered by mondegreen, background noise or even a working TV set. Listeners who hear users discussing sensitive data like bank details or names are told to tick a box marking the file as "critical" and move on - which sounds fine, until one thinks of those "critical" files as red flags for some unscrupulous person looking to prey on Amazon customers.

"We take the security and privacy of our customers' personal information seriously", an Amazon spokesman told Bloomberg in an emailed statement.

Luke Walton, Lakers Mutually Part Ways
The Lakers finished 37-45 this season, far short of the expectations after the team signed LeBron James in the offseason. The tumultuous 2018-19 Los Angeles Lakers season may be over, but the circus surrounding the club continues.

Ander Herrera to PSG? Man Utd's top tackler won't "close any doors"
Gueye boasts a passing accuracy of 84 per cent and leads the Premier League in average successful tackles per match this season. But PSG remain cautiously optimistic about convincing Herrera to take the plunge and move to the Parc des Princes.

Jet Airways cancels three flights for Friday
The airline has reduced its fleet to just 14 planes as of Thursday noon, way down from 123 planes in operations at the peak. Sources said lenders are expecting EoIs from global airlines like Air Canada and Delta Airlines.

Alexa users can disable their voice recordings for developing new features. The device's serial number and the user's account number are typically left in.

It also confirms that the company "associate your requests with your Amazon account to allow you to review your voice recordings, access other Amazon services and to provide you with a more personalised experience". Quickly after that, Google launched its own version called Google Home.

In the USA, smart speaker ownership doubled year-over-year from 28% in 2017 to 55% in 2018, according to Business Insider Intelligence data. Google and Apple both have humans reviewing conversations with the Google Assistant and Siri respectively, to improve the digital assistants and make sure they are interpreting requests correctly.

The camera on the £119.99 ($129) Echo Spot, which doubles up as a "smart alarm", will also probably be facing directly at the user's bed.

It's not just Alexa listening when you talk to her.

Related News:

  • SpiceJet To Induct 16 Boeing 737 Aircraft As Groundings Push Up Fares

    SpiceJet To Induct 16 Boeing 737 Aircraft As Groundings Push Up Fares

    Regulators around the world grounded the Max last month after deadly crashes involving the plane in Indonesia and Ethiopia . A preliminary report on the Ethiopian Airlines crash indicated that pilots struggled to control the MCAS before the crash.

    Measles outbreak causes health hysteria

    The biggest issue has been measles, which is incredibly contagious and spreads easily to those who aren't vaccinated. Almost one in four kindergartners in one Washington county did not receive vaccinations, according to state data.
    Elon Musk's SpaceX sends world's most powerful rocket on first commercial flight

    Elon Musk's SpaceX sends world's most powerful rocket on first commercial flight

    Less than 10 minutes into the flight, the rocket's three boosters detached from the Falcon Heavy on schedule. And smooth it was: All three of the Falcon's rockets guided themselves home once they'd served their goal .
  • Donald Trump discussed Iran, human rights with Saudi crown prince: White House

    Donald Trump discussed Iran, human rights with Saudi crown prince: White House

    Trump has said the USA partnership with Saudi Arabia is important for the US economy and maintaining stability in the Middle East. But Republicans and Democrats have both bristled over the White House's apparent embrace of the kingdom and its leadership.
    Trump floats idea of third North Korea summit

    Trump floats idea of third North Korea summit

    She also hinted that Kim was considering whether to continue the talks and his moratorium on nuclear and missile tests. Analysts said a fourth Kim-Moon meeting could encourage another meeting between Kim and Trump.
    Summer Loving to be a prequel to Travolta film Grease

    Summer Loving to be a prequel to Travolta film Grease

    OMG, they are doing a Grease prequel! For 40 years, that was enough information about Danny and Sandy's meeting for most viewers. Released in 1978 and based on the 1971 musical, Grease is an all-time great in terms of cultural impact and continued appeal.
  • 3-year-old boy locks dad out of iPad until 2067

    3-year-old boy locks dad out of iPad until 2067

    If you connect your iPad to a PC and run iTunes, you can force-restart the device, and restore it from a backup. Here's what was showed on Evan's iPad screen. "Ideas?" Osnos tweeted last week.
    Ronaldo on another level, says Juve boss Allegri

    Ronaldo on another level, says Juve boss Allegri

    Neres dispossessed Cancelo on the left-hand touchline and drove into the box before curling a superb effort into the far corner. I know focus can turn to games like ones at Old Trafford but we have to maintain our mental focus on the next game.
    Mike Pence hits back at Pete Buttigieg after criticism: 'He knows better'

    Mike Pence hits back at Pete Buttigieg after criticism: 'He knows better'

    You are the mayor. "And you shouldn't be afraid to speak about that". "And it's something you have to navigate". Pence caused a national uproar that year by signing a "religious freedom" law criticized as anti-LGBT.
  • Family of Ethiopian Airlines crash victim sues Boeing

    Family of Ethiopian Airlines crash victim sues Boeing

    The plane maker reportedly delivered a total of 54 aircraft in March, more than a one third of 149 supplied jets since the beginning of the year.
    Why is the U.S.  calling Iran's Revolutionary Guard 'terrorists'?

    Why is the U.S. calling Iran's Revolutionary Guard 'terrorists'?

    Although the Guard has broad control and influence over the Iranian economy, such penalties from the USA may have limited impact. Trump has been rightly slammed for counter-productive moves on Jerusalem, the occupied Golan Heights, immigration and trade.
    Praise! Wendy Williams Finally Files For Divorce From Her Trifflin' Husband

    Praise! Wendy Williams Finally Files For Divorce From Her Trifflin' Husband

    All was made public after Williams took an extended hiatus from her show amid rumors that something was awry in her life. Williams and Hunter, 46, Wednesday on November 30, 1997, and share son Kevin Jr ., 19.


Most liked

LeBron in crowd for Wade's final National Basketball Association game
On Tuesday, Wade had 30 points in his final home game in a 122-99 win over Philadelphia, giving the Heat crowd plenty of things to cheer about as they sent him into retirement.

U.S. wants U.N. to revoke credentials of Maduro's government
Mike Pence , Vice President of the U.S. , on the situation in Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Despite the sanctions , Maduro clings to power with help from Russia , China and Cuba .

White House fire: Man tries to set himself ablaze outside President's house
On Friday, journalist Nicholas Kristof tweeted out that someone may have set themselves on fire in front of the White House. The Secret Service confirmed on Twitter that it was responding to medical emergency on the front lawn.

'Star Wars 9' trailer and title expected today
And the insane thing is, every day it hits me that she's not here, but it's so surreal because we're working with her in scenes. With that out of the way, Disney revealed today that the full title of Episode 9 will be Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker .

Pelicans delete video of Anthony Davis' amusing farewell T-shirt
He made it more than clear, though, that he wanted it to be his final game as a Pelican inside the Smoothie King Center. While that didn't happen, many expect Davis will be moved this offseason, whether it is to Los Angeles or elsewhere.

Wisden Names Virat Kohli Leading Cricketer of the Year for 3rd Time
The all-rounder was named alongside his global team-mates Jos Buttler and Rory Burns . Indian women opener Smriti Mandhana bagged the women's Leading Cricketer of the Year.

Group Applauds House Democrats' Efforts To Restore Net Neutrality
Even if proponents do manage to convince Senators to support it, the White House has threatened to veto the bill. The bill still needs to pass the Senate before being sent to the President but this is an important first step.

New York Giants potential target Dwayne Haskins not attending NFL Draft
The New York Giants are planning to hang onto a young star they drafted beyond his rookie contract. With this trade, the Cardinals get appropriate value for the top pick in the draft.

Trump Tweets Graphic of His ‘Soaring’ Approval Rating - But It’s Wrong
However, the graphic also showed that 55 percent of the respondents approve of the president, that number is not correct .

Vitamin Supplements Don't Help You Live Longer, New Study Shows
Fang Fang Zhang , an affiliate professor on the Friedman Faculty of Vitamin Science and Coverage at Tufts College. Getting enough nutrients from food reduces risk of death, not the same could be said for nutrients in pill form.

Lauren London Reveals New Tattoo Dedicated to Nipsey Hussle After Memorial Service
In the letter, Obama admitted that he had only been familiar with Nipsey's music through his daughters. "Nipsey saw potential. Around the time it was to start, about half of the Staples Center was full and fans were still waiting to get inside.

UK's May faces Parliament after European Union grants Brexit extension
The officials spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss the closed-door negotiations. If the two sides can get a deal, the Withdrawal Agreement will be likely to pass a vote in Parliament.

Meet Katie Bouman, the STEM hero behind today’s black hole photo
The Blackhole image released instilled a similar reaction from people. "No one of us could've done it alone", she told CNN . The scientists didn't talk to other teams about the details of their work as they analyzed their data.

Federal Government approves Adani mine plan
The Environment Ministry's clearance means only the approval of the Queensland government is necessary for the project to proceed. It had "been subject to the most rigorous approval process of any mining project in Australia ", she said.

Disney confirms Falcon and Winter Soldier Marvel show teamup
Live action films " Lady and the Tramp ", " Noelle ", " Togo ", " Timmy Failure " and " Stargirl " will launch as well. The service's entire lineup will cover five categories: Disney , Pixar , Marvel , Star Wars and National Geographic .