Amazon, amazon alexa, cybersecurity, Privacy, Tech

Alexa users can now tell Amazon to stop listening to their recordings

Don’t love the idea of some random Amazon employee reviewing your Alexa query about whether or not it’s safe for the dog to eat honeydew? Now you can opt out.

(It is safe, and even healthy, for your dog to eat some honeydew, by the way.)

The new privacy feature is a months-later response to the April revelation that some Amazon employees manually review recorded exchanges with Alexa, and can see where the user is located. You can find it in the Alexa Privacy section of Amazon’s website or smartphone apps.

All Alexa users should probably go ahead and opt out now, given Amazon’s handling of the issue so far. When word first emerged that employees were manually reviewing Alexa recordings — a practice that wasn’t disclosed in Alexa’s terms and conditions at the time — Amazon claimed that those employees had no way to connect a recording with the user’s location.

Specifically, the company’s statement read: “[Employees] do not have direct access to information that can identify the person or account as part of this workflow.”

Then, later in April, that claim turned out to be untrue. Bloomberg reported (and Mashable independently confirmed) that manual reviewers can view the location data Amazon collects, specifically the latitude and longitude where the recording is made. That info could then be plugged into Google Maps to get an address.

It looks like Amazon isn’t halting the manual review process entirely, but it’s taking a more transparent approach to informing users on how their interactions with Alexa are handled. The new privacy setting is paired with a disclaimer that explains how recordings are used to improve Amazon, and that “[o]nly an extremely small fraction of voice recordings are manually reviewed.”

The added privacy featured arrived on the same day Apple suspended a program that had human reviewers listening to exchanges with the company’s Siri voice assistant. Google should be taking action soon as well; back in July, there was a leak of more than 1,000 Google Assistant recordings from a similar manual review program.

[h/t Bloomberg]

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