If the claims that humans are reviewing recordings of our interactions with Echo speakers proves to be true, it could be a concerning insight into how artificially intelligent voice assistants are trained by companies, as well as a potential security issues for users. You'll be taken to Amazon's external Alexa privacy page. "We only annotate an extremely small sample of Alexa voice recordings in order improve the customer experience". The recordings are transcribed, annotated, then fed back as part of an effort to improve Alexa, the software that powers Echo devices. The goal of this is to help improve the reliability and usefulness of Alexa, Amazon's personal assistant that runs on Echo devices.
In this tab, you can toggle various options including whether or not you permit your Alexa usage to be used to "develop new features", and whether messages you send with Alexa can be used by Amazon to "improve transcription accuracy".
Concerns have been raised by some in the past that smart speaker systems could be used to listening into to user conversations, often with the aim of targeting users with advertising.
In an article in Scientific American last month, Amazon director of applied science Ruhi Sarikaya argued that such massive amounts of data will soon need analysis that voice recognition systems will have to switch from a "supervised" learning model "toward semi-supervised, weakly supervised and unsupervised learning".
An Amazon spokeswoman said audio files stored on its servers can be deleted by users at any time through the privacy dashboard and also suggested users set their Echo device to "Amazon Echo" or "computer" - instead of "Alexa" - to eliminate some of those errant recordings.
There are also a few nonsense recordings generated by the nearby television on record - including a man talking about his dog and politics mentioned once or twice - and while they may be seen as acceptable recording errors, the idea of an unknown human listening in may be enough to make you uneasy. Occasionally the listeners pick up things Echo owners likely would rather stay private: a woman singing badly off key in the shower, say, or a child screaming for help. Amazon says it has procedures in place for workers to follow when they hear something distressing, but two Romania-based employees said that, after requesting guidance for such cases, they were told it wasn't Amazon's job to interfere.
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"It has a very specific wake word, so it's nothing more than any other device sitting on a countertop until it's been woken up".
The spokesperson added that employees can't directly access identifying information about the people or accounts associated with the recordings, among other protections for the data, and "zero tolerance" for any abuse.
But they insisted that "all information is treated with high confidentiality" using "multi-factor authentication to restrict access, service encryption, and audits of our control environment to protect it".
The company has a mix of contractors and full-time employees all over the globe reviewing and transcribing clips of conversations between users and Alexa, according to Bloomberg.
Amazon employs a global team of human workers to listen to voice recordings captured by the company's digital assistant Alexa, which has been privy to clips of what sounded like sexual assault. All companies say the clips lack personally identifiable information. Google's auditors can only access audio that has been distorted.