Alexa has had a lot of explaining to do. Since Amazon's voice assistant debuted in 2014, the company has convinced millions of people to invite Alexa into their homes. They use it to play music, serve up the news and answer trivia questions. This year, though, the online retailing giant faced a backlash after news broke that human reviewers were sometimes listening to recordings of users' private conversations with Alexa. Those privacy problems will likely cast a shadow on Amazon's annual product launch, which takes place Wednesday in Seattle.
Not all voice assistants can handle the same requests. We put Siri, Alexa and Google to the test. Apple is suspending a program that allows third-party contractors to listen to the questions you ask Siri. This comes after a whistleblower said that workers listen to the recordings to help Siri improve and determine if the request was handled correctly, a process called grading, reported The Guardian. Amazon and Google came under fire earlier this year for similar reasons when it was discovered workers were listening to the recordings the Echo and Google Assistant collected.
You're cool chatting up Amazon Alexa, the Google Assistant and Siri and having each come alive when you utter the "Alexa," "Hey, Google" or "Hey, Siri" wake words. But your kids are also engaging with the popular digital voices inside the smart speakers in your home and your big concern has mostly to do with privacy. Amazon and Google really cornered the smart speaker market. That's the chief takeaway from a new study, exclusive to USA TODAY and conducted in February, by Common Sense Media and SurveyMonkey Audience. Robocall crackdown: FTC continues robocall crackdown, stops groups responsible for'billions' of calls More than 4 in 10 of the 1,127 parents of children ages 2 to 8 who participated in the survey say their family uses a smart speaker such as the Amazon Echo or Google Home.
Amazon, Apple and Google all employ staff who listen to customer voice recordings from their smart speakers and voice assistant apps. News site Bloomberg highlighted the topic after speaking to Amazon staff who "reviewed" Alexa recordings. All three companies say voice recordings are occasionally reviewed to improve speech recognition. But the reaction to the Bloomberg article suggests many customers are unaware that humans may be listening. The news site said it had spoken to seven people who reviewed audio from Amazon Echo smart speakers and the Alexa service.
Whether you use an Amazon, Google or Apple smart speaker, concerns about what these devices are sending back to the mothership are becoming more widespread. Consumer Reports takes a look at just how concerned you should be, and what you can do to control your digital privacy with these connected devices. They enjoyed their first digital assistant so much they decided that one wasn't enough. "I believe we have five," Rhee said. But when it comes to how these connected devices work, Eric has some concerns -- especially when it comes to the privacy of his two young daughters.