Amazon Contractors May Be Creeping Your Cloud Cam Footage Allegedly For Training

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It seems as though we've been down this road before. Over the past few months, tech companies like Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Google and others have admitted to using human workers to listen in on your smart assistant voice recordings in order to improve functionality. Most did this without getting express consent from users, which in turn caused a huge privacy uproar.

Now, we're learning that Amazon may have taken things a step further by not only using human to review audio recordings, but also video recordings from its Cloud Cam security device.

Amazon's Cloud Cam

Before we get into the controversy, we need to first tell you what the Cloud Cam is. The Cloud Cam is a first-party Amazon security camera that gives you 24-7-365 video footage in any room of your home where it's placed. The Cloud Cam captures footage in 1080p and supports two-way audio allowing you to communicate with a person in the room if you are, say, at work or running an errand. And as you might expect, not only does the Cloud Cam provide notifications when sound or movement is detected, but it can also store 30 days’ worth of video recordings.

The New Cloud Cam Controversy

So, what is all the hubbub about now? Well, it has been reported that Amazon is employing "dozens" of workers in India and Romania who are tasked with combing through video footage that is picked up by Cloud Cams. According to Bloomberg, these workers are only given access to "select clips" 

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Usually, Amazon's artificial intelligence (AI) routines are used to identify objects in a room (i.e. a dog, a couch, a person, a table, etc.) so that a Cloud Cam does not give repeated false alarms for what it might "see" during a typical day (or night). The human workers were brought into help better train the AI and to distinguish between a harmless pet or an intruder that may be ransacking your home while you're away.

According to Bloomberg's source, the Amazon workers are tasked with analyzing up to 150 video recordings per days that are up to 30 seconds in length.

The Response From Amazon

Amazon asserts that any video clips that it receives were either voluntarily submitted by customers (for troubleshooting purposes), or were submitted by Amazon employees using the Cloud Cam. However, the publication notes that nowhere in Amazon's terms of service does it indicate that humans would be reviewing the footage that is uploaded.

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And there's one other thing to consider; although Amazon says that all clips that it receives are sent voluntarily, workers that wish to remain anonymous indicate that they have received video clips showing people having sex (along with illicit activities). It seems unlikely that Cloud Cam users would be voluntarily uploading such footage to Amazon (or at least we would hope they wouldn't). In addition, it's reported that these Amazon workers often share footage with other team members, which is strictly forbidden by Amazon's policies.

With that all being said, listening in on audio recordings is bad enough for many customers, but the potential for their private moments being captured on video and reviewed by humans opens a whole new can of worms. Although Amazon asserts that nothing nefarious is going on with its review process, when humans are involved, there is room for abuse.