Amazon Is for Sure Listening to Your Conversations

Photo Credit: Unsplash, Christian Wiediger

Big brother is always watching…especially for those consumers who opted to purchase an Amazon Echo or other similar devices. Sure, Alexa makes life easier. You can order stuff, change songs, and even turn your lights on with a simple voice command. Who needs a hand or finger to do the heavy lifting?

I digress.

But the technology that makes our lives simpler comes at a cost, and I don’t mean money to purchase the Echo. I’m talking about your privacy.

I hear some saying, “But basically everything we do is tracked via phones and computers, so who cares?” And I don’t deny that. Data makes the world go round. But what about your intimate conversations? Things you don’t punch into your Google search bar but say to your loved ones? What about those?

It turns out that Amazon has literally thousands of employees whose job it is to listen to your voice recordings. And just so you know, the Echo is always listening if it’s plugged in, whether you’re spouting off commands or not.

So what if Amazon is not being evil with this information? Should you care?

Amazon has a good reason, so they say:

“[It] 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.”

Great news, right? Validation that you can receive better customer device service. It’s been said that every employee who listen to these conversations is required to sign a non-disclosure agreement. All of the recordings are stripped of identifiers and then analyzed to see how Alexa responds to commands.

According to Bloomberg, Amazon employees can listen to up to 1,000 recordings a day. These random selections might catch you in the shower singing or even involved in criminals acts. And you know what? You consented to this form of eavesdropping when you agreed to the Terms of Service. You know, the ones you read, right?

In most cases, people don’t read the TOS and quickly plug in their devices and start using them. Oh, the power of fine print.

Due to the backlash, Amazon has said:

“We only annotate an extremely small number of interactions from a random set of customers… We have strict technical and operational safeguards, and have a zero tolerance policy for the abuse of our system. Employees do not have direct access to information that can identify the person or account as part of this workflow.”

But don’t worry, all may not be lost. You can continue enjoying the hands-free activity in your home with a little privacy (supposedly). Take a look at your privacy settings and give them a change.

Although, frankly, I don’t know if I believe that that’ll help…