Amazon will now allow users to opt out of program that collects voice recordings and has them reviewed by contractors, following in the footsteps of Google and Apple
- Amazon said it will let users opt out of a controversial listening program
- Echo customers can now withdraw from the program in their app settings
- Move mirrors that of Google and Apple, which suspended the practice entirely
Amazon will be the last of three major tech companies to alter its policy on listening to customers’ voice recordings amid mounting public pressure.
On Friday, Amazon began allowing users of its Echo smart speaker — equipped with the voice-assistant Alexa — to opt out of program that gathered some users’ voice recordings for human review.
After being collected, recordings were sent to third-party contractors who then listened to the clips and documented its content and whether or not the device was able to complete the command.
Amazon will let users choose whether or not their voice recordings can be used in a program that listens to audio snippets for Echo smart-speaker improvements.
As previously reported, the program accidentally scraped up private information from users by accident, including arguments, official business talk, and audio of people having sex.
Some of these contractors also had access to users’ first names and their location according to Bloomberg.
Users of the Echo now have the option to go into their settings and withdraw their voice recordings from a database used to improve the device.
The company has also added new language to its privacy section of the Echo’s corresponding smart phone app that explicitly states that the company may ‘manually review’ a small percentage of voice recordings in its program to ‘develop new features and manually reviewed to help improve our services.’
‘We take customer privacy seriously and continuously review our practices and procedures,’ an Amazon spokeswoman told Bloomberg in an email.
‘We’ll also be updating information we provide to customers to make our practices more clear.’
HOW CAN I GET ALEXA TO STOP RECORDING ME?
After public backlash regarding a program that collected some users’ voice recordings for human review, Amazon will allow customers to opt out.
To withdraw your voice recordings from the pool used by the company to improve the device, users can:
- Go to ‘settings’
- Then ‘Alexa Privacy’
- Then ‘Manage How Your Data Improves Alexa’
From here users can now opt out of the program entirely.
While Amazon’s Echo was the first of three major devices to undergo scrutiny for its practice of collecting customers’ voice commands, the company has been the last to meaningfully change its policies.
Both Apple and Google have halted similar programs that harvested customers’ voice recordings from their Homepod and Google Home devices.
Like Amazon, both Apple and Google’s policies of surreptitiously recording their customers’ audio for human review were highlighted by whistleblowers concerned with the practice’s privacy implications.
Those programs remain on hold as the companies reassess their philosophy on user privacy.
While both Google and Amazon’s listening program centered primarily on two devices — the Google Home and the Echo — Apple’s program branched out further to the company’s line of popular wearables, the Apple Watch.
Whistleblowers interviewed by The Guardian say the watch was the biggest inadvertent collector of voice recordings as its voice assistant, Siri, is easily triggered on accident.