A recent report from Bloomberg has revealed that while people talk to their smart speakers, like Alexa, all the time, companies like Amazon have employed people who listen to and assess the voice inputs on a regular basis.
The team that works on Alexa has a mix of contractors and Amazon employees who work from various countries including Boston, India, Costa Rica and Romania. "When something like that happens, they may share the experience in the internal chat room as a way of relieving stress", the report said.
The report claims that sometimes the workers can hear chatter in the background of the recordings they are working on, but the report says that the workers aren't allowed to comment on what they do.
A nine hour shift will see each employee listen to up to 1,000 voice recordings.
A spokesperson for the trillion-dollar company said that "an extremely small sample of Alexa voice recordings" are analysed by staff. In contrast, Apple says Siri recordings are stripped of personally identifiable information, associated with a random identifier, and deleted after 6 months.
It was also stated that all of the information gathered is treated with high confidentiality and several security measures are in place throughout their facilities such as multi-factor authentication, encryption, and constant audits.
Amazon devices have previously been activated when they're not wanted - meaning the devices could be listening.
Amazon staff are listening to recordings ofpeople's conversations with Alexa to help train the virtual assistant's responses, it has emerged. These are transcribed and annotated with the aim of improving the performance of digital assistant Alexa, helping the AI better understand human speech. Workers reported that they heard one user singing in the shower and a child screaming for help. 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.
Amazon's website insists that Alexa is not recording all users' conversations.
A family member said she received a call from an employee of her husband who urged them to unplug their Amazon Echo devices, which use the Alexa software.
Amazon doesn't exactly advertise the human role in its AI assistant. Apple disclosed they store recorded information for six months, after which the audio is stripped of all identification information, but can be still used for machine learning.