Amazon recently told Bloomberg that it will now give Alexa users the option to disable human review on their voice recordings.
Bloomberg first reported that Amazon was employing thousands of workers to analyze customer’s recordings captured on their Echo devices. The human analysts would manually review these recordings to train Alexa to understand user requests better.
Earlier in May, CNET reported that Alexa keeps a transcription of everything it hears. Customers have the option to delete them from their devices. However, the text logs of the audio transcriptions stay on Amazon cloud servers, where customers can’t erase them.
Around the same time, children’s data privacy advocacy groups filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission against Amazon. They alleged that the Echo Dot Kids Edition stores sensitive children’s information long after parents delete it. They argue that this is a violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).
Google and Apple have decided to suspend human review altogether for their smart voice assistants in the wake of similar incidents. In July, a Google contractor leaked over 1,000 Google Assistant recordings to a Belgian news outlet. Since then, Google announced that it would temporarily stop transcribing Google Assistant recordings in the European Union.
Similarly, Apple decided to temporarily halt Siri grading worldwide. The move came after reports broke out that accidental Siri recordings were being evaluated not only by Apple internal teams but also by contractors with high turnover rates. Apple plans to allow users to participate in Siri grading after the company reviews internal Siri policies.
Amazon’s Privacy Notice does not explicitly discuss how the company manages data gathered through Alexa. However, under their “Manage How Your Data Improves Alexa” menu, Amazon states that turning on the setting for “Help Improve Amazon Services and Develop New Features” helps the company enhance its services. They added that “only an extremely small fraction of voice recordings are manually reviewed.”
In a BBC interview, Amazon Senior Vice President of Devices and Services David Limp said that only “a tiny fraction of 1%” of Alexa recordings go through the manual review process. Amazon has subsequently issued a statement that says they will update the information given to customers to explain Alexa review practices with more clarity.
How to Disable Human Review of Alexa Recordings
- Open the Alexa app on a smartphone or tablet.
- Go to Menu > Settings
- Then tap Alexa Privacy
- Next, select Manage How Alexa Improves Your Data.
- Toggle off the button that says, “Help Improve Amazon Services and Develop New Features.” A dialog box will appear, warning that some features may not work well.
- Tap Turn Off.
Customers can also turn this off by going to https://www.amazon.com/alexaprivacysettings. Logging in will take the user directly to the Alexa Privacy menu. Click on Manage How Your Data Improves Alexa, then turn off the option for Help Improve Amazon Services and Develop New Features.
Now that you’re not sending everything you say to Amazon, find out all the cool things you can do with Alexa here.