If you have an Alexa in your home, you know she’s always listening—but so are thousands of Amazon employees, according to a recent report that revealed that the retailer pays people to listen in on customer conversations.
These employees, located in the United States, Costa Rica, India, and Romania, work nine-hour shifts in which they review and transcribe up to 1,000 audio clips recorded from the Echo speakers. The information is then fed back into the software to make Alexa even smarter and more advanced.
An Amazon spokesperson explained to Bloomberg that “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.”
Noting that they “only annotate an extremely small sample of Alexa voice recordings,” the spokesperson went on to assure people that “employees do not have direct access to information that can identify the person or account” and that “all information is treated with high confidentiality.”
The company representative also said that Amazon only records audio that’s activated by a “wake” word (like Alexa or Google).
However, Bloomberg reports that some of the Amazon employees have listened to clips that are distressing and even some that are potentially criminal, including at least one incident when two workers heard what they believe sexual assault. The employees were instructed not to report it as it “wasn’t Amazon’s job to interfere.”
To prevent Amazon from listening in on your conversations, you can change your privacy settings in the Alexa app. Under the menu option “Manage how your data improves Alexa,” toggle off the buttons for “Help Develop New Features” and “Use Messages to Improve Transcriptions.”