Amazon will be the last of three major tech companies to alter its policy on listening to customers' voice recordings amid mounting public pressure. On Friday, Amazon began allowing users of its Echo smart speaker -- equipped with the voice-assistant Alexa -- to opt out of program that gathered some users' voice recordings for human review. After being collected, recordings were sent to third-party contractors who then listened to the clips and documented its content and whether or not the device was able to complete the command. Amazon will let users choose whether or not their voice recordings can be used in a program that listens to audio snippets for Echo smart-speaker improvements. As previously reported, the program accidentally scraped up private information from users by accident, including arguments, official business talk, and audio of people having sex.
Hot on the heels of Amazon admitting it can listen to private Alexa audio, a new report has revealed that employees can also access users' home addresses. An Amazon team charged with auditing Alexa users' commands can see users' latitude and longitude coordinates, allowing them to easily discover their addresses, Bloomberg reported, citing sources close to the situation. It's the same team uncovered by Bloomberg earlier this month, which is located all over the world and sifts through thousands of recordings, transcribing and analyzing them in the process. An Amazon team charged with auditing Alexa users' commands can see their location coordinates, allowing them to easily discover their addresses, a new report has found Tap the menu button on the top-left of the screen. Select'Manage how your data improves Alexa.' Turn the button next to'Help Develop New Features' to off.
Amazon staff review thousands of audio recordings made by Alexa each day -- including snippets of couples arguing and having sex -- an investigation claims. The clips were accidentally captured by the popular digital assistant -- confusing the noises for the commands it should be listening to -- and sent off for analysis. Staff at the tech firm review one in every five-hundred recordings made by Alexa, whether of deliberate commands to the assistant or accidental recordings. According to a privacy expert, the revelation is a reminder of the extent of the personal information that the tech firm has on its users. Amazon has an English-speaking team monitoring thousands of Alexa recordings daily based in Bucharest, Romania, the Sun claims, along with similar setups in Boston, Costa Rica and India.
Forty-one percent of voice assistant users are concerned about trust, privacy and passive listening, according to a new report from Microsoft focused on consumer adoption of voice and digital assistants. And perhaps people should be concerned -- all the major voice assistants, including those from Google, Amazon, Apple and Samsung, as well as Microsoft, employ humans who review the voice data collected from end users. But people didn't seem to know that was the case. So when Bloomberg recently reported on the global team at Amazon that reviews audio clips from commands spoken to Alexa, some backlash occurred. In addition to the discovery that our AI helpers also have a human connection, there were concerns over the type of data the Amazon employees and contractors were hearing -- criminal activity and even assaults in a few cases, as well as the otherwise odd, funny or embarrassing things the smart speakers picked up.
WATCH (May 24, 2018): Amazon's Alexa records family's conversation, sends it to random contact Amazon staff can listen to commands and questions users pose to the Alexa voice assistant -- and they sometimes do. The company acknowledged that the conversations aren't totally private in a statement to Global News after the news was first reported by Bloomberg. "We only annotate an extremely small number of interactions from a random set of customers in order to improve the customer experience," Amazon said in the statement. Amazon explained that the company uses samples collected to better train "speech recognition and natural language understanding systems." READ MORE: Alexa recorded one family's conversations and sent them to a friend, without them knowing Bloomberg reported Wednesday that Amazon has "thousands" of employees who are trying to improve Alexa's speech recognition technology.