Others May Be Hearing Your Conversations with Amazon’s Alexa

Has the thought ever crossed your mind that smart devices are becoming too smart? Recently, Amazon admitted their Alexa devices collect speech recordings that are later listened to and analyzed by employees across the globe. As smart products infiltrate more and more genres from doorbells to lighting, the amount of data intercepted may leave some curious as to what companies are doing with their information.

Amazon stated that employees listen to, transcribe, and annotate conversations had with the device to improve Alexa’s speech recognition. Workers may hear everything from a request to play a popular song to your trivia answers with the hubs built-in games. In one case, there were reports that two staff members even believed to be hearing a domestic violence situation occurring but legally could not take action. When they may encounter upsetting conversations like this, workers may use the internal group chat room to release stress, since interfering in these matters would breach security.

Amazon’s response to the public’s worries of their conversations being tracked was to assure customers that there are policies in place that hide user’s personal information and that they do not tolerate any system abuse. To protect identities, they use several forms of authentication and a controlled environment for their workers. Although in this case, Amazon has told the public the information is solely for performance improvements, as seen in the reports of Roomba’s robotic vacuum tracking floor plans or Target analyzing baby product purchases to market to pregnant women, who’s to say this big data won’t be leveraged some other way in the future. For now, the information seems secure, but with the new found knowledge in hand, Alexa users may be more careful with what they are asking the smart device.

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