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.
I recently attended a holiday potluck hosted by a tech-junkie friend who had decked out his one-bedroom apartment with smart speakers, smart lights, and small, infrared motion sensors that looked disconcertingly like cameras. Towards the end of the party, after one of the guests disappeared into the back of the apartment, another decided to play a prank. "Hey Google, turn off bathroom lights," he said quietly into a nearby sensor. A few seconds later we heard an exaggerated shriek. "Hey Google, turn lights red," my friend joined in, grinning.
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.
When even Alexa is tired of hearing Baby Shark... Humankind, USA TODAY In California, smart home speakers might become legally blocked from saving your voice recordings. A bill that's making its way through the state legislature would require manufacturers of smart speakers to get your permission in writing before the intelligent home devices can store your recorded voice. The bill would also ban smart speaker makers from sharing command recordings with third parties. Dubbed "The Anti-Eavesdropping Act," the bill passed the California State Assembly on Wednesday. "Today, the State Assembly sent a strong message to the tech giants who have spent years recording and retaining private conversations in the home via smart devices," said Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham, who authored the bill, in a statement.
Google has reportedly admitted that Google employees listen to private recordings of customer conversations via Google Assistant. Moreover, employees are able to access conversations which were not meant to be recorded. Leak of 1,000 private conversations in Dutch language by some of Google's partners to a Belgian news site further proved that third-party contractors working for Google were also able to access these multiple sensitive user conversations, that were reportedly recorded unintentionally. Usually, users with Google Assistant on their phones and smart speakers have to say "Ok, Google" to start a conversation with the AI-powered virtual assistant. But even when users didn't call up the virtual assistant, various user conversations that were personal and sensitive in nature were recorded.