Thursday, April 11, 2019 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Amazon Employees Review “Small Sample” of Alexa Audio

Timothy B. Lee:

Most of the time, when you talk to an Amazon Echo device, only Amazon’s voice-recognition software is listening. But sometimes, Bloomberg reports, a copy of the audio is sent to a human reviewer at one of several Amazon offices around the world. The human listens to the audio clip, transcribes it, and adds annotations to help Amazon’s algorithms get better.

“We take the security and privacy of our customers’ personal information seriously,” an Amazon spokesman said in a statement emailed to Bloomberg. “We only annotate an extremely small sample of Alexa voice recordings in order [to] improve the customer experience.”

Bloomberg hints at a significant workforce doing this kind of work. Bloomberg says Amazon has employees listening to audio clips in offices in Boston, Costa Rica, India, and Romania. Employees interpret as many as 1,000 audio clips in a 9-hour shift.

[…]

Bloomberg says that Apple’s Siri “also has human helpers.” The company points to an Apple privacy white paper that describes how Apple uses audio captured from customer devices.

I wonder whether Apple’s standard opt-out covers this.

Previously:

Update (2019-05-10): Alfred Ng:

Amazon lets you delete those voice recordings, giving you a false sense of privacy. But the company still has that data, just not as a sound bite. It keeps the text logs of the transcribed audio on its cloud servers, with no option for you to delete them.

Amazon said it erases the text transcripts from Alexa's "main system," but is working on removing them from other areas where the data can travel.

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