The debate is over, Amazon IS listening. Amazon workers are listening to private and sometimes disturbing voice recordings to help improve the Amazon Echo's understanding of human speech.
The company admits that their staff has been analyzing thousands of recordings and transcribing them before feeding them back into the software.
There have been as many as 1,000 clips that have been reviewed by workers all over the world. These buildings show no obvious indication they are ran by Amazon.
This brings up the very interesting question: what should these tech companies do when they learn that criminal activity is taking place? Some of the things they have heard while "spying" include a child screaming for help and also a couple of instances where there was a sexual assault happening. If they hand over the information to law enforcement, that brings up the debate of turning countries into a police state.
Suspicions confirmed. https://t.co/AmFoD2SNwQ
— Mike Vance - #KAG2020 Text TRUMP to 88022 (@thinkamericana) April 11, 2019
Amazon downplayed how much of the audio they analyze, but they did confirm they are listening to the audio. More from Bloomberg:
“We take the security and privacy of our customers’ personal information seriously,” an Amazon spokesman said in an emailed statement. “We only annotate an extremely small sample of Alexa voice recordings in order [to] 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.
“We have strict technical and operational safeguards, and have a zero tolerance policy for the abuse of our system. Employees do not have direct access to information that can identify the person or account as part of this workflow. 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.”
Much of the time a joke is made at the expense of anyone who is worried about having an Amazon Alexa or Google Home in their home. Obviously that worry is warranted since they really are listening to random clips of audio and analyzing them.
We were right. Amazon is listening.