Thu, 9 May, 2019
There is now proof that your smart speaker is eavesdropping on your conversations
Amazon has confirmed that its smart speaker, the Amazon Echo – also known as “Alexa” – listens to your personal and private conversations.
The company employs thousands of workers to listen to voice recordings that are captured by the company’s Echo “smart” speakers, according to a Bloomberg report.
Millions across the world have been reluctant to use the device for this very reason, and it turns out that someone IS listening to their conversations.
However, Amazon doesn’t refer to the process as eavesdropping. The company refers to it as the “Alexa voice review process” and uses it to highlight the role that humans play in training software algorithms.
“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,” an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement.
The audio transcribers, who are comprised of full-time employees at Amazon as well as contractors, told Bloomberg that they reviewed “as many as 1,000 audio clips per shift”.
Although some of the employees might find the work mundane, the listeners occasionally pick up on things that the person on the other end would like to remain private, such as a woman singing in her shower off-key and loudly.
The report from Bloomberg also revealed that the more amusing (or harder to understand) voice clips get shared amongst the employees via internal chat rooms.
How to disable this feature
However, disabling this feature is easy. As it’s switched on by default in the Alexa app, this is also the way you turn it off.
- Open the Alexa app on your phone.
- Tap the “Menu” button on the top left of the screen.
- Select “Alexa Account”.
- Choose “Alexa Privacy”.
- Select “Manage how your data improves Alexa”.
- Turn off the button next to “Help Develop New Features”.
- Turn off the button next to your name under “Use Messages to Improve Transcriptions”.
Despite turning off the recording function for Alexa, the company told Bloomberg that its voice recordings may still be analysed as a part of Amazon’s review process.