Amazon Reportedly Has Thousands of Workers Listening to Alexa Recordings

14 April, 2019, 04:44 | Author: Mary Valdez
  • Amazon Echo Link Amp goes on sale for audiophile Alexa fans

Reporters for Bloomberg have revealed that thousands of Amazon workers around the world spend their days listening to recordings from Alexa, Amazon's voice assistant, in order to improve the technology.

The teams apparently review the recordings in order to improve Alexa's understanding of human speech and make it better at responding to commands. Recordings are associated with the user's first name, account number, and device's serial number.

The news site said it had spoken to seven people who reviewed audio from Amazon Echo smart speakers and the Alexa service. As Bloomberg reports, Amazon has a team of thousands of workers-some employees, some contractors-whose job it is to listen to voice recordings captured from Amazon Echo owners.

The report claimed staff had on occasions reported hearing recordings they described as distressing, but Amazon said they may share the experience in the internal chat room as a way of relieving stress. They said they worked "nine hours a day, with each reviewer parsing as many as 1,000 audio clips per shift".

Commenting on the Bloomberg report, Amazon told the news agency it takes consumers' privacy seriously.

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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In the process, the employees gain access to things people would like to keep private, such as bank identification information, Bloomberg reports.

It was also stated that all of the information gathered is treated with high confidentiality and several security measures are in place throughout their facilities such as multi-factor authentication, encryption, and constant audits.

Amazon last night confirmed the staggering revelations - which will unnerve millions of Alexa users across the globe. Two Amazon workers speaking on the condition of anonymity told Bloomberg that users frequently ask Alexa questions like, "Do you work for the NSA?" or "Is someone else listening to us?"

While it's easy to get outraged about something like that, the reality is much more mundane and it's surely obvious that Amazon would have had to use real people to improve a service that relies on ever-more human-like responses to human commands. For example, we use your requests to Alexa to train our speech recognition and natural language understanding systems. They work throughout the world. If during the transcribing, the workers discover a recording with personal information, like banking details, they are reportedly supposed to mark the recording as "critical data" and move on.

Concerned users have argued that Amazon is in the wrong because it simply did not inform its users that their conversations would be recorded and that someone was going to be listening to it.

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