According to a Bloomberg report, thousands of workers at Amazon around the globe are reviewing conversations with the company’s Alexa.
The report says the workers listening in on these conversations is in order to improve Alexa’s speech recognition technology.
Bloomberg reports that Amazon workers transcribe the recordings and shares the conversations with other parts of the company in order to make Alexa’s “understanding of human speech” better.
An Amazon spokesperson said:
“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 improve the customer experience. For example, 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. 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.”
“You don’t necessarily think of another human listening to what you’re telling your smart speaker in the intimacy of your home,” said Florian Schaub, a professor at the University of Michigan.“I think we’ve been conditioned to the [assumption] that these machines are just doing magic machine learning. But the fact is there is still manual processing involved.”
“Whether that’s a privacy concern or not depends on how cautious Amazon and other companies are in what type of information they have manually annotated, and how they present that information to someone,” he continued.
Disclaimer: We have no position in Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) and have not been compensated for this article.