Amazon is getting ahead of the game with its Alexa-powered line of smart speakers and devices. The company has announced that it will allow users to opt-out of having a human review users’ voice recordings. The move comes after recent complaints of violations of privacy with contractors listening to some recordings made by devices powered by digital assistants.
Amazon's new policy went into effect on Friday, and it adds a setting in the menu of the Alexa smartphone app that allows the user to remove their voice recordings from a pool that could potentially be reviewed by Amazon employees and contractors. Amazon isn't first to do this, Google has offered a way to prevent voice recordings from being heard in an effort to improve the service. More recently, Apple has been in hot water after a whistleblower stepped up and said that contractors were listening to Siri recordings and that some of those recordings were of illegal actions, medical conversations with care providers, and people having sex.
Apple announced this week that it would put Siri "grading" on hold while it is looking into privacy issues. It was no secret that Amazon workers were listening in on some conversations recorded by Alexa devices. Reports in April alleged that Amazon had a team of thousands of workers who were listening in on conversations to make the digital assistant better.
An Amazon spokesperson has said in a statement that the company takes privacy seriously. The spokesperson also stated that the company would be updating the information given to users of Alexa devices to make its practices more clear. Users of Alexa devices with the updated app can find the new disclaimers and control privacy settings via Settings - Alexa Privacy - and "Manage How Your Data Improves Alexa."
The verbiage there states, "With this setting on, your voice recordings may be used to develop new features and manually reviewed to help improve our services. Only an extremely small fraction of voice recordings are manually reviewed."