As the days go by, Alexa is turning more and more into HAL 9000.
A recent article from Bloomberg shows that thousands of Amazon employees listen to you through your Alexa.
Employees track data from conversations to help Alexa better understand human speech. That helps Alexa respond quickly and efficiently.
However, Amazon employees also like to share recordings of interesting conversations they overhear. That private conversation you had with your significant other might not have been as private as you thought.
If this freaks you out, it might be time to switch to Google Home.
In one instance, employees overheard what they believed was a sexual assault. When they reported the matter to their supervisors, they were told it wasn’t Amazon’s job to interfere. (Prime Directive much?)
“We have strict technical and operational safeguards and have a zero tolerance policy for the abuse of our system,” Amazon wrote in an email to Bloomberg. “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.”
The FAQ section for the Amazon Alexa has a few more answers. When asked if Alexa is recording all of our conversations, Amazon responds with a resounding, “No.” Later in the section, it also reiterates the email to Bloomberg saying that it uses some recordings to help further human speech understand.
Sadly, technology spying on us is nothing new.
Our laptops, smartphones, and even some of our apps have all served as microphones and cameras for prying eyes and ears.
The best thing that we can do is to research these products before putting them into our home. If a company blindsides us, we need to remove the product and voice our outrage.
If Alexa is only using our conversation data to improve, that’s one thing. However, Amazon needs to conduct an internal investigation to determine whether or not employees are recording private conversations for their own amusement.
Alexa is not the first device to listen in on us, and it won’t be the last. The device still has many great features you can try. However, next time you are having a private conversation, remember that someone else might be listening.