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.
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.
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.