Retail giant Amazon recently admitted that its employees listen to customer voice recordings from Alexa products as part of its method of improving its speech recognition.
Users do have the option to prevent their recordings from being shared with Amazon employees in Alexa’s privacy settings, but they cannot opt out of voice recording.
Amazon Listens to Alexa Conversations
Amazon revealed that its employees listen to customer conversations on the Echo and other Alexa-enabled smart speakers. However, this is done to help improve its speech recognition feature, the company added.
In a statement by Amazon, the company pointed out that the information obtained from voice recordings helps it train its speech recognition and natural language understanding systems. This makes it easier for Alexa to understand user requests and ensures that the service works at its best for everyone.
Amazon, also added that it ensures the privacy of its customers is maintained. The employees are not given direct access to any information that can reveal the identity of a customer.
The fact that humans review some customer recordings is not explicitly stated in the company’s terms and conditions. However, within Alexa’s privacy settings users can opt out of helping Amazon to “develop new features.”
Cybersecurity expert Jake Moore told The Independent that while Alexa’s privacy settings don’t allow users to opt out of voice recording, they have the option of stopping their recordings from being used for product development. In addition to that, previous voice recordings can be deleted, he added.
Although the identity of the users is not revealed, it could still be considered a breach of privacy. According to some company employees, amusing recordings are often shared via an internal chat room, while others have admitted to hearing some potentially disturbing conversations from users in their homes.
How to Increase Privacy on Your Amazon Echo
There are some measures users can take to increase privacy on their Alexa devices:
- Mute the device: this is perhaps the easiest way to ensure that no one is listening to your conversations at home. The Echo has a mute button near the top of the device.
- Delete conversation history: you can review your activity and delete recordings in your Alexa app activity settings.
- Audible alerts: by setting up audio alerts, you can be sure of knowing when your device is recording a conversation as you will hear a sound every time it starts. If you don’t use audible alarms, your only hope of knowing is by seeing the indicator light flashing which can be easily missed.
- Use a strong password: There could be other people listening to your conversations aside from Amazon employees, which is why it is essential to secure your device correctly. By choosing a unique, strong password and activating 2FA on your Amazon account, you make it harder for people to access your machine remotely.
- Unplug the device: This is another option to consider, especially when you are having private conversations. You can unplug the device entirely during those conversations, which eliminates any possibility of your talks being recorded.
- Use a VPN: Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) will encrypt your internet connection by tunneling your internet traffic through a remote server and back. This ensures that anyone spying on your internet activity can only see the VPN tunnel, but will not see the traffic moving through it. Here are the best VPN services in 2019.