Amazon does not specifically say on its website that human workers will listen to recordings on Echo devices.
The Amazon workers, who number in the thousands, reportedly have a chat room, too, where they can get help when they can't quite make out a word or phrase - or where they can share "amusing" recordings, as Bloomberg puts it.
Teams of Amazon employees and contractors review as many as 1,000 disembodied audio clips from Amazon Echo devices a day in order to transcribe, annotate, and feed their contents back into the company's Alexa AI, training the software to better understand the nuances of human speech, seven people who worked on the program told Bloomberg.
Sometimes the workers can even hear chatter in the background while Alexa is on but employees on the team are not authorized to speak about their work, Bloomberg reported. The report adds that each of the reviewer is expected to prase nearly 1,000 audio clips in each shift of nine hours. The workers also have no way of identifying who they are listening to as any personal or account information is removed.
A spokesperson for the trillion-dollar company said that "an extremely small sample of Alexa voice recordings" are analysed by staff. The marketing materials for the Echo claim "Alexa lives in the cloud and is always getting smarter", only hinting in the lengthy Alexa FAQ that "We use your requests to Alexa to train our speech recognition and natural language understanding systems".
Amazon told Bloomberg that it has strict privacy safeguards in place to prevent misuse of the 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'.
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Amazon did not immediately return a request for comment from Business Insider.
An Amazon spokeswoman said audio files stored on its servers can be deleted by users at any time through the privacy dashboard and also suggested users set their Echo device to "Amazon Echo" or "computer" - instead of "Alexa" - to eliminate some of those errant recordings. They were apparently told that they couldn't do anything about it, because it's not Amazon's job to interfere.
Concerns have been raised by some in the past that smart speaker systems could be used to constantly listen in to user conversations, often with the aim of targeting users with relevant advertising. "When something like that happens, they may share the experience in the internal chat room as a way of relieving stress".
Amazon devices have previously been activated when they're not wanted - meaning the devices could be listening. You can also listen to and delete previous voice recordings.
Siri records voice commands given through the iPhone and HomePod smart speaker.
Millions are reluctant to invite the devices and their powerful microphones into their homes out of concern that their conversations are being heard.