With the news about Amazon workers possibly snooping on your conversations with Alexa, your worst nightmare may have come true. Bloomberg is now reporting that Amazon workers can listen to (at least some of) what you have to say to Alexa, the e-commerce giant's digital voice assistant that goes into tens of millions of Echo devices around the globe.
Well, the team put to this particular task of listening to your conversations is a mixture of human contractors and full-time employees and as expected, Amazon has its reasons to do what it does and how.
This team is spread across different countries and locations from Boston to Costa Rica, India and Romania, Bloomberg reports citing people who have signed the nondisclosure agreement (NDA) so that they cannot speak publicly about this hush-hush program. And these 'hard-working' set of Amazon workers have a 9-hour shift every day and each one of them has to review about a thousand audio clips in a single shift alone.
One of such Amazon facilities bears "crumbling infrastructure" with no exterior sign creating awareness of the company's presence. But the underlying question, why do they even have to listen to what you have to tell Alexa in the first place?
According to the report, Amazon is looking for a better human-level understanding of random phrases you utter at times and annotate certain interactions. This way, Amazon wants to identify phrases like 'Taylor Swift' that "indicate the searcher meant the musical artist."
Workers say sometimes they have to listen to recordings they find "upsetting or criminal." The report has it that a couple of Amazon workers even picked up what they believe was a sexual assault.
"We take the security and privacy of our customers’ personal information seriously." Amazon provided an email statement to Bloomberg.
Amazon maintains it only annotates a small sample of Alexa voice recordings so that it can "improve the customer experience."
"For example, 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," Amazon added.
However, Amazon says that it has stringent security measures as well as a zero tolerance policy when it comes to abuse of its system. The company also says employees do not have direct access to information that can identify the person or account as part of this workflow.