Amazon employees paid to listen to private Alexa chats

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Amazon has thousands of employees across the globe who actively listen to Alexa recordings from Echo devices as part of a broad effort to improve the reliability of the product, according to a new bombshell report from Bloomberg.

According to Bloomberg, teams of employees listen to voice recordings in the Echo system and feed the transcripts back into the software "to eliminate gaps in Alexa's understanding of human speech". The report adds that each of the reviewer is expected to prase nearly 1,000 audio clips in each shift of nine hours.

"We take the security and privacy of our customers' personal information seriously", an Amazon spokesman said in an emailed statement to Bloomberg.

The convenience of smart speakers - like Amazon's Echo, Google's Home and Apple's HomePod - could come at a price to your privacy and these popular tech tools may be recording you even when you're not using them, the I-Team uncovered. The survey was sponsored by Amazon and the retail and technology giant is hoping that its data will help convince auto manufacturers to incorporate Alexa into their infotainment systems, The Verge reports. This revelation today at least partly confirms the validity of their concerns. Workers reported that they heard one user singing in the shower and a child screaming for help.

Alexa software is created to continuously record snatches of audio listening for its wake word, Bloomberg alleged, adding that clips assessed by workers included what they believed to be sexual assault and a child screaming.

The spokesperson added that employees can't directly access identifying information about the people or accounts associated with the recordings, among other protections for the data, and "zero tolerance" for any abuse.

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'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'. They were apparently told that they couldn't do anything about it, because it's not Amazon's job to interfere.

According to research from previous year, one in 10 people has one or more smart speakers in their home, with Amazon's range of Echo smart devices the market leader.

Recordings sent to the human teams do not provide full names, but they do connect to an account name, device serial number, and the user's first name to clips.

It's not just Amazon that's turning to humans helpers to develop its digital assistant. Visit Amazon.com's Alexa privacy settings FAQ page. Google does the same for its personal assistant but distorted the audio before it is listened to by an employee. In other cases, the workers said they use internal chat rooms to share recordings they find amusing. The kids' voices are also recorded and stored in the cloud for future reference, helping the toys "learn".

Apple also has human reviewers who make sure its voice assistant Siri is interpreting requests correctly. Human reviewers are not explicitly mentioned.

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