Amazon staff listened to recordings made of British users’ private lives gathered by Alexa-enabled virtual assistant speakers, including those related to “family rows, money and couples having sex”; the alleged goal was to monitor and improve the Alexa system, the Sun reports, referring to its own investigation.
The newspaper cited an unnamed former analyst in the Bucharest-based Amazon team as claiming that even though the staff were told to concentrate on Alexa commands, it was “impossible not to hear other things going on”.
“There were times when I heard couples arguing at home and another when kids were trying to teach Alexa to swear,” the analyst noted.
According to the source, they never felt like they were spying because “Amazon told us everyone we were listening to had consented.”
Alexa records millions of UK households and finds very few are actually having sex.... 😁😉— Gee (@gavcambs) July 30, 2019
Amazon, for its part, insisted that the recordings are needed to “improve the customer experience” and prod Alexa to respond better to commands.
The company cited about 1,000 Alexa recordings that employees listen to every day, saying that the staff is unable to identify customers and adhere to strict confidentiality rules.
Alexia stop listening to the faking orgasm's more like, it's enough to make it crash !— Noel Derek Hillier (@hillier_noel) July 29, 2019
“We take the security and privacy of our customers’ personal information seriously. We only annotate an extremely small sample of recordings,” Amazon pointed out.
The Sun’s investigation followed a similar report by The Guardian which claimed that Apple staffers “regularly hear confidential details” on Siri-enabled recordings ranging from medical questions and drug deals to couples having sex.
Echoing Amazon, Apple argued that the data is used to improve the Siri system and that “user requests are not associated with the user’s Apple ID”.