Patrick T. Fallon | Bloomberg | Getty Images
David VanderWaal, vice president of marketing for LG Electronics USA, left, and Michael George, vice president of Alexa, Echo, and Appstore at Amazon.com Inc., speak about the Amazon Alexa partnership with the LG InstaView Door-In-Door smart refrigerator
Amazon has thousands of workers around the world who listen to and review private Alexa conversations with the goal of helping improve the speech assistant’s technology, according to Bloomberg.
The report said the Amazon team transcribes the recordings and shares the conversations with other parts of the company in order to make Alexa’s “understanding of human speech” better.
The team is spread across different regions, including Boston, India, and Romania, Bloomberg said, and some of the workers review up to 1,000 audio clips per shift.
Amazon has never publicly disclosed the role of this group or the fact that human interference is part of Alexa’s voice technology.
An Amazon spokesperson noted that employees don’t have direct access to information that can identify the people speaking or the account that the snippet came from. However, Bloomberg reported that recordings are associated with account numbers, device serial numbers and the owner’s first name.
The spokesperson said:
“We take the security and privacy of our customers’ personal information seriously. We only annotate an extremely small sample of Alexa voice recordings in order
improve the customer experience. 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. 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. All information is treated with high confidentiality and we use multi-factor authentication to restrict access, service encryption, and audits of our control environment to protect it.”