Amazon says that the people are there to help "eliminate gaps Alexa's understanding of human speech and help it better respond to commands", but questions are understandably being asked as to whether users are aware that recordings of their commands and requests are being listened to. The device's serial number and the user's account number are typically left in. As Bloomberg reports, there's a big human element to Alexa, and it's vital for the smart assistant to continue getting better at its job.
Amazon's teams even have chat rooms where they can get help with tricky transcriptions, or share amusing snippets, according to Bloomberg.
Perhaps most disturbingly, two sources based in Romania told Bloomberg they believe they overheard a sexual assault.
"We only annotate an extremely small sample of Alexa voice recordings in order [to] improve the customer experience", an Amazon spokesman said in the report.
Amazon added that it employs "strict technical and operational safeguards" and that it imposes "zero tolerance policy for the abuse of our system".
The determining factor in whether Amazon's actions represent a privacy concern as the determining factor might be how "cautious Amazon and other companies are in what type of information they have manually annotated, and how they present that information to someone", Schaub said.
Though this seems like a gross violation of personal privacy, Amazon seems to think otherwise. Those fears are likely to be compounded following a report that Amazon has thousands of workers listening in on Echo owners' conversations.
Amazon employees could be listening to recordings of Echo speaker users' conversations with Alexa, according to a report by Bloomberg. Each person hears around 1,000 interactions each day, and then they use the information to "teach" the software about stuff.
Amazon says that it listens to only a tiny portion of the overall smart speaker requests that it receives. The workers also have no way of identifying who they are listening to as any personal or account information is removed. However, there are occasional clips that lean more towards being too sexually explicit, with some being outright criminal.
Concerned users have argued that Amazon is in the wrong because it simply did not inform its users that their conversations would be recorded and that someone was going to be listening to it. For example, we use your requests to Alexa to train our speech recognition and natural language understanding systems.
Apple and Google - who also make popular voice-assistant tech - also have employees who listen to audio commands.