Thousands of Amazon workers listen to private Alexa chats

Amazon has thousands of employees around the globe who are tasked with listening to and transcribing Alexa conversations to help enhance the virtual assistant's understanding of human speech, Bloomberg reports.

The team, which is made up of employees in Boston, India and Romania, among other locations, reviews up to 1,000 audio clips per shift, according to the report. The employees do not have access to personal identifying information of the users speaking, such as account details, an Amazon spokesperson told the publication. However, Bloomberg reports that recordings sent to Alexa include the user's account number, first name and the device's serial number.

"We take the security and privacy of our customers' personal information seriously," an Amazon spokesman said in an emailed statement to Bloomberg. "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."

To review Alexa chats, Alexa extracts a random, small sample of customer voice recordings and sends them to the employees who transcribe users' commands. The employees then compare the recordings to Alexa's automated transcript or note the interaction between the user and Alexa, writing notes about what the person asked and whether Alexa provided a proper response.

Other employees are required to annotate everything Alexa's speaker hears, including background conversations. If employees hear any conversations where users discuss private details, such as names or bank information, they are required to label the audio file as critical data and then move onto the next file, according to the report.

In Alexa's privacy settings, users can opt to disable Amazon's use of their voice recordings for the development of new features.

To access the full report, click here.

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