Amazon Confirms That It Has Thousands Of Employees Listening To Alexa Conversations

Amazon Alexa
An Amazon smart speaker euipped with the company's Alexa virtual assistant (Photo: Pexels.com)

After a slew of reports had circulated accusing Amazon of listening in on Alexa conversations through their smart speakers, the company has now confirmed everyone's worse nightmare. The company not only confirmed that it was recording these conversations, but it revealed that it actually has thousands of employees listening to these conversations on a daily basis.

According to recent reports, Amazon had apparently hired a global team to listen in on Alexa conversations in an effort to improve its artificial intelligence systems. The team of full-time workers and contractors from countries such as Costa Rica, Romania, and the United States, reportedly transcribes the voice commands they hear, which are then fed back to the software to improve Alexa's "understanding" of human speech.

The process is apparently the quickest way for the AI-based virtual assistant to more easily learn and respond to commands. A single worker will reportedly listen to more than a thousand audio clips during a typical nine-hour shift.

Some workers have described the conversations to be quite "mundane." However, there are occasional clips that lean more towards being too sexually explicit, with some being outright criminal.

In response to growing privacy concerns amongst its smart speaker users, Amazon stated that the entire process it uses does take into account the security and privacy of all its customers.

The company reiterates that it takes these matters very seriously and that all personal information it has gathered remains confidential. Amazon also points out that it only picks a small amount of the total interactions completely at random.

According to an Amazon spokesperson, employees listening to conversations don't have access to a particular user's name and address. However, employees will still have the Amazon account number and the device's serial number associated with the conversation they are listening to.

It was also stated that all of the information gathered is treated with high confidentiality and several security measures are in place throughout their facilities such as multi-factor authentication, encryption, and constant audits.

Concerned users have argued that Amazon is in the wrong because it simply did not inform its users that their conversations would be recorded and that someone was going to be listening to it.

However, Amazon reasons that it does mention this fact under its frequently asked questions section, which states that users agree in helping train Alexa's speech recognition and language understanding.

The company also points out that users are able to opt out of the agreement through the privacy settings section of the Alexa app.

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