If you have an Amazon Echo device, then listen up! Amazon, Inc. has hired thousands of people world-wide to listen to voice recordings which the devices capture on a daily basis. Amazon’s intents may not be evil, but it’s still creepy! Their goal is to help improve how the “Alexa” software responds to voice commands. Amazon says that this “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.”
Employees have signed non-disclosure agreements that prevent them from speaking about their work with Amazon. Essentially, what they do is listen to Alexa’s recordings and analyze how she responds to certain commands. According to Bloomberg, Amazon employees hear up to 1,000 random voice recordings per day. These recordings are anything from people singing in the shower, children screaming for help, and even criminal acts such as sexual assault. Dr. Florian Schaub, a professor of information science at the University of Michigan, says that Amazon has permission to do this because people okay eavesdropping when the agree to the terms of service and privacy policies. But, unfortunately, “no one reads the privacy policies.”
Amazon released a statement saying “We only annotate an extremely small number of interactions from a random set of customers… 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.” Despite this, many people believe that the company is invading their privacy. For those that agree with this sentiment, there is a way to stop Amazon from receiving recordings from your device. Go to https://www.today.com/money/how-change-your-alexa-privacy-settings-so-amazon-can-t-t152018 to learn how to change your device’s privacy settings!