If you have an Amazon Echo, you’re probably not alone in your home- even if you’re the only person there.
Amazon reportedly employs thousands of people to help improve the speech comprehension capabilities of the Alexa digital assistant, meaning that from time to time, someone is listening in on conversations at Echo owners’ homes, places of business and social events.
The individuals listening in are located in cities such as Boston, as well as countries such as Costa Rica, Romania, and India.
Around 1,000 audio clips are reviewed by an individual worker during a nine-hour shift.
According to Bloomberg, those listening in hear everything from the mundane to the criminal, with the latter ranging from arguments to potential sexual assaults. While this would no doubt be disturbing, Amazon’s policy is to avoid interfering.
“We take the security and privacy of our customers’ personal information seriously,” an Amazon spokesman said in an emailed statement. “We only annotate an extremely small sample of Alexa voice recordings in order [to] improve the customer experience. For example, this information helps us train our speech recognition and natural language understanding systems, so Alexa can better understand your requests, and ensure the service works well for everyone. We have strict technical and operational safeguards, and have a zero tolerance policy for the abuse of our system. Employees do not have direct access to information that can identify the person or account as part of this workflow. All information is treated with high confidentiality and we use multi-factor authentication to restrict access, service encryption and audits of our control environment to protect it.”
So next time you talk to Alexa, have her say “Hello” in Romanian, Spanish or Indian. The person on the other end might appreciate that.
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