Thursday, 25 April, 2019

Amazon workers can hear what you say to Alexa

Amazon Echo Link Amp review Amazon workers eavesdrop on your talks with Alexa
Russell Knight | 13 April, 2019, 06:00

But Alexa isn't really eavesdropping on users, argues VoiceBrew's Katherine Prescott. Each reviewer is expected to check as many as 1,000 audio files in each 9-hour shift, two of the workers told Bloomberg. Well, according to McKinsey & Co., products like these, as well as other technologies, could create as much as $750 billion in new revenue for vehicle manufacturers by 2030. Bloomberg does also say that it has reviewed several of the submissions to Amazon's Alexa enhancement team from Alexa devices and much of the identifying information - like name and account number - are stripped out. The objective of the task is to better help Amazon understand human speech and understand commands. This is simply not true. Regardless of what woke the system, Amazon employees are required to analyse and annotate input into it.

Second, you'll know when Alexa is recording because the blue ring on your Echo will light up.

That doesn't mean that someone is listening in every time you and Alexa have a conversation. Officially, the system does not store any audio until the wake word is detected ("Alexa" or "Echo" by default).

Even Siri, Apple's voice assistant, has human beings working behind the scenes to gauge if the Apple product is interpreting users' requests correctly. An investigation by Bloomberg has revealed that Amazon has a global team that transcribes and annonates Alexa recordings from around to world to "eliminate gaps in Alexa's understanding of human speech" and allow the assistant to serve up better responses to your queries. There is nothing nefarious here. The workers, some of whom spoke anonymously with Bloomberg, annotate the recordings to help Alexa get better at what she does. It doesn't matter who said it. The project also has workers based in Boston, however.

The company says they have "strict technical and operational safeguards" to protect privacy and a "zero tolerance policy" for the abuse by employees.

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The determining factor in whether Amazon's actions represent a privacy concern as the determining factor might be how "cautious Amazon and other companies are in what type of information they have manually annotated, and how they present that information to someone", Schaub said.

This is the scenario that people worry about, but it's virtually impossible (and nearly infinitely improbable).

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 Echo debuted in 2014, popularising the use of voice assistants and smart homes. You'll be taken to Amazon's external Alexa privacy page.

In-car voice assistants are nothing new, but many automakers, such as Mercedes-Benz and BMW, have been doubling down on efforts to ideal their tech.

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