Thousands of Amazon workers listen to recordings from Alexa

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Amazon employees are also able to listen to accidental recordings from customers around the world, including in the United Kingdom, made when the devices think that they hear the word "Alexa".

Thousands of Amazon employees around the world listen to users' voice recordings captured on Alexa-powered Echo speakers, reports Bloomberg.

According to a report by Bloomberg the recordings are transcribed, annotated and then fed to the machine learning software in order to improve the language processing of Alexa. The company says people who opt out of that program might still have their recordings analyzed by hand over the regular course of the review process.

Bloomberg reports that the teams are a mix of contractors and full-time employees who work in offices in Boston, Costa Rica, India and Romania. The report mentions that there are chat channels where employees can help each other with particularly tricky transcriptions, and yes, they do share amusing clips. They said they worked "nine hours a day, with each reviewer parsing as many as 1,000 audio clips per shift".

The company says they have "strict technical and operational safeguards" to protect privacy and a "zero tolerance policy" for the abuse by employees.

According to an Amazon spokesperson, employees listening to conversations don't have access to a particular user's name and address.

Amazon previously has been embroiled in controversy for privacy concerns regarding Alexa.

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Amazon also explained that, by default, its Echo speakers only begin sending audio to the cloud when it is activated with the press of a button or the device hears the chosen wake word, such as "Alexa" or "Amazon".

Sometimes the employees can even hear chatter in the background while Alexa is on, but they are not authorized to speak about their work, Bloomberg reported. But she has a team of humans helping her improve her skills.

Amazon is said to have procedures in place for workers who hear potential crimes in the recordings.

Last year Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg was asked by a US Senate committee if the social network used microphones in mobile devices to listen in on people, something he strongly denied, labelling it a "conspiracy theory".

But Amazon could have been more explicit about the role of human reviewers.

You see, Amazon has folks working for the company whose job it is to transcribe interactions between their Amazon Echo (Alexa, to you and me) and us. And it's not just Amazon that does this, Apple and Google also use workers in the same way for improving Siri and Google Assistant. You can also listen to and delete previous voice recordings. "For example, we may use your commands, to Alexa, to train our systems for voice recognition and Understand natural language", it means General questions and answers on the Amazon page.

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