Over the weekend we all learned something that most of us already suspected: Amazon employs thousands of people to listen in on what people say to their Alexa.


While the idea behind this is improvement for Alexa (i.e. a better understanding of human speech for more successful interactions) the team is still listening to voice recordings captured in Echo owners’ homes and offices. And bathrooms. And bedrooms.

“The listening team is comprised of part-time contractors and full-time Amazon employees based all over the world; including India, Romania, Boston, and Costa Rica.

Listeners work nine hour shifts, with each reviewing as many as 1,000 audio clips per shift according to two employees from Amazon’s Bucharest office – located in the top three floors of the Romanian capital’s Globalworth building. The location ‘stands out amid the crumbling infrastructure’ of the Pipera district and ‘bears no exterior sign advertising Amazon’s presence.'”1

Apparently, most of the work is boring; we have become so desensitized to voyeurism that the very idea of listening to people you don’t know, who don’t know you- their most intimate thoughts and moments- is just boring. However, workers have also come across what sounded like a sexual assault.

But what did Amazon do? Nothing, “two of the Romania-based employees say they were told ‘it wasn’t Amazon’s job to interfere’ when they requested guidance for such instances.”1

An Amazon spokesman in a statement provided to Bloomberg,

“We take the security and privacy of our customers’ personal information seriously. We only annotate an extremely small sample of Alexa voice recordings in order improve the customer experience. For example, this information helps us train our speech recognition and natural language understanding systems, so Alexa can better understand your requests, and ensure the service works well for everyone.

We have strict technical and operational safeguards, and have a zero tolerance policy for the abuse of our system. Employees do not have direct access to information that can identify the person or account as part of this workflow. All information is treated with high confidentiality and we use multi-factor authentication to restrict access, service encryption and audits of our control environment to protect it.”1

But again, it’s not like Amazon comes right out and says that humans are listening to recordings. Rather, the company has a generic disclaimer on their FAQ page, “We use your requests to Alexa to train our speech recognition and natural language understanding systems.”1


And they are not only listening but collecting and storing most of what you say to Alexa.

What do you think about this news? Do you have an Alexa? Are you still using it? Share in the comments below.



  1. Zero Hedge