Amazon employees have been secretly listening back to and mocking the things that customers ask Alexa and are sharing recordings of them in internal chat rooms, it has emerged.
Amazon customers have complained that their privacy has been violated after discovering that the company employs hundreds of people to listen to recordings of them speaking to their Alexa devices.
The company can listen to audio from all Echo devices, including the millions of UK households which use Alexa.
Employees in Romania, India, Costa Rica and the US are given recordings of some people speaking to their Alexa devices in order to verify that the virtual assistant is correctly understand them, according to Bloomberg.
The teams use internal chat rooms at Amazon to share files when they need help understanding a muddled word, or when the recordings are amusing.
Amazon employees are also able to listen to accidental recordings from customers around the world, including in the UK, made when the devices think that they hear the word “Alexa.” Reviewers listen to as many as 1,000 recordings per day.
Employees claimed to have heard a possible sexual assault which was accidentally recorded on an Echo device. They were also asked to review recordings of a woman singing in the shower and a child screaming for help.
Ashkan Soltani, the former chief technologist of the US Federal Trade Commission, wrote: “Most people consider a person listening significantly more privacy invasive than a machine.”