Amazon employees listen to Alexa recordings

Occurred: April 2019

Amazon employees and contractors have been quietly listening to what customers say on Alexa in order to train the company's software. They have been doing so without informing their customers, triggering concerns about privacy. 

According to Bloomberg, Amazon employs thousands of people in the United States, Costa Rica, Romania, and other countries to listen to as many as 1,000 audio clips in shifts that last up to nine hours. 

Amazon's FAQs state it uses 'requests to Alexa to train our speech recognition and natural language understanding systems,' but it was taken to task for not 'explicitly' telling Alexa users that it gets people to listen to the recordings.

Amazon said it only annotates an 'extremely small number of interactions from a random set of customers,' and that it takes the 'security and privacy of our customers’ personal information seriously.'

Amazon clarified that no audio is stored on customers' Alexa-enabled devices unless it is activated by a 'wake' word. 

Operator: Amazon
Developer: Amazon 

Country: USA

Sector: Consumer goods

Purpose: Provide information, services

Technology: NLP/text analysis; Natural language understanding (NLU); Speech recognition
Issue: Privacy

Transparency: Governance; Privacy; Marketing