Concerns around privacy are never too far away from conversations around Amazon's Alexa voice assistant and Amazon Echo speakers – after all, it's built to listen (albeit only after its wake word is spoken). However, a Bloomberg report now suggests that Amazon employees can gain access to some sensitive data belonging to Alexa users.
The report cites sources that claim an Amazon team that audits Alexa user's commands can gain access to location data, including a customer's home address.
The international team analyses portions of voice recordings, manually transcribing and annotating them to improve the performance of Alexa.
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While the data connected to these audio snippets, such as device ID and customer identification number, are difficult to link to an individual, geographic data (stored in Amazon's system as longitude and latitude co-ordinates) does allow for more precision. In the Bloomberg report, a source was alleged to have tied all the data together and bring up what could be a user's house on Google Maps.
Likewise, the tools the 'annotators' and 'verifiers' use can reveal contact names, numbers and email addresses to the team, providing they've been shared by the user. It allows the team to pair names to requests that have proved problematic, such as voice-calling a named contact.
Amazon responded to the report with the following statement: “Access to internal tools is highly controlled, and is only granted to a limited number of employees who require these tools to train and improve the service by processing an extremely small sample of interactions.
"Our policies strictly prohibit employee access to or use of customer data for any other reason, and we have a zero tolerance policy for abuse of our systems. We regularly audit employee access to internal tools and limit access whenever and wherever possible.”