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Amazon Workers Are Listening to What You Tell Alexa

Original Article

Posted By: Ribicon, 4/11/2019 12:33:38 AM

Tens of millions of people use smart speakers and their voice software to play games, find music or trawl for trivia. Millions more are reluctant to invite the devices and their powerful microphones into their homes out of concern that someone might be listening. Sometimes, someone is. Amazon.com Inc. employs thousands of people around the world to help improve the Alexa digital assistant powering its line of Echo speakers. The team listens to voice recordings captured in Echo owners’ homes and offices. The recordings are transcribed, annotated and then fed back into the software as part of an effort

Comments:

* and Natalia Drozdiak

Who wouldn´t want Amazon or Google or Facebook listening in on their private conversations? Nice touch stationing the eavesdroppers overseas, maybe sidestep a law here and there.

Post Reply

Reply 1 - Posted by: curious1 4/11/2019 12:54:19 AM (No. 30025)
Of course they are. And that means the no such agency, cia and others are too. And they probably aren´t listening to the exact same conversations that the googly-spies are.
20 people like this.

Reply 2 - Posted by: DVC 4/11/2019 2:04:22 AM (No. 30020)
Of course, that has always been obvious. Two relatives have these damned things in their homes, I am appalled. I wouldn´t have one if they paid me a lot.
46 people like this.

Reply 3 - Posted by: chumley 4/11/2019 2:54:46 AM (No. 30041)
My kid has one. It is interesting and entertaining, and could be useful. You can tell it to call the police for instance, and it will. Or an ambulance.
Its is probably the wave of the future but not mine. Its bad enough I have to censor my speech at work. I wont do it at home too.
26 people like this.

Reply 4 - Posted by: Sandpiper 4/11/2019 3:23:36 AM (No. 30047)
My clever techie son and his wife had an Echo in their kitchen and LOVED it. It would help them make shopping lists, repeat recipes, look up information, set timers - it was so useful in their lives. And then one evening they were having a quiet conversation in another room and their Echo responded. Wait - they hadn’t been talking to it! They hadn’t used the “wake up” command! They hadn’t said it’s name! So they tested it. Speaking very softly they spoke about something, asking a question and ... their Echo answered it. Yet, they had to go INTO their kitchen to have it obey the command to turn off - it wouldn’t turn off even when told to loudly from the front room! Really creeped them out!! They unplugged their machine and have never used it since.
41 people like this.

Reply 5 - Posted by: jalo1951 4/11/2019 4:40:04 AM (No. 30032)
Don’t have one don’t want one. I don’t have a smartphone either. Yet somehow I am able to survive and function.
32 people like this.

Reply 6 - Posted by: Strike3 4/11/2019 5:52:12 AM (No. 30048)
Of course, that was the goal all along. What a terrific marketing tool, a microphone planted in your home, advertised as some kind of personal encyclopedia used to gather data all day long.

Now there are plans in place to retire flip phones and force everybody with a cell phone to replace it with a "smart phone." I may or may not have a phone at all since the GPS and internal spyware give them exactly what they want, your location and access to everything you say. Is that camera really off?
16 people like this.

Reply 7 - Posted by: Hermit_Crab 4/11/2019 6:09:04 AM (No. 30040)
And now their TV commercials are actually bragging that you can´t hide from their newest model´s cameras. If you are in the room, the camera´s ´eyes´ are following you. This is actually considered a selling point.

To paraphrese Benjamin Franklin: Those who sacrifice privacy for convenience deserve neither.
28 people like this.

Reply 8 - Posted by: Sorosisbehindit 4/11/2019 7:19:17 AM (No. 30024)
Only an idiot would allow a listening device in their home, much less pay for the privilege. I disable Siri as much as possible and wish it were possible to delete it. I cover the camera on my Mac until I need to FaceTime the grandkids. I specifically asked for a tv without a camera on my last purchase. The salesman said they stopped making them because it was freaking people out.
Every time I read a article like this I think of the people who will be trying to survive in the seven year tribulation period without taking the mark.
22 people like this.

Reply 9 - Posted by: Paperpuncher 4/11/2019 7:33:19 AM (No. 30028)
Had one, Got rid of it because it seemed too spooky. I also disabled Siri on my IPhone. Sitting in the living room one evening having a conversation with the Mrs. and Siri repeated the last two sentences of our conversation on its own. Well, that was that. I will have nothing to do with voice command devices which are in any way connected to the internet. Period!
24 people like this.

Reply 10 - Posted by: udanja99 4/11/2019 7:50:13 AM (No. 30046)
Amen to #’s 8 and 9! Never had one, never will. I also cover the camera on my laptop and my iPad.

We moved recently and our new home has a “Nest” thermostat which can be set up to that you can control it from across the country using your smart phone. We disabled that feature - no need for it and I don’t want anyone monitoring the temperatures we set in our house. That is part of the climate crazies’ scheme - to monitor how much energy we use whether it is in our homes or the distances we drive our cars. Then they will tax it to fund their evil programs and make up use less of it.
17 people like this.

Reply 11 - Posted by: bgarrett 4/11/2019 8:00:46 AM (No. 30022)
I was a long distance operator for the telephone company back when America had that job and I can tell you listening to other peoples conversations is PAINFULLY boring.
21 people like this.

Reply 12 - Posted by: Chabis 4/11/2019 8:12:48 AM (No. 30029)
When many, including commenters here, fail to differentiate (but is clear in the article), is that what is being analyzed is not random conversation in the room -- that is not recorded -- but voice commands to the device.

Owners know that sometimes words (spoken, or on the TV) are interpreted as a question to the unit. A command to play a piece of music, or a question.

Suddenly the device comments "sorry, I do not know that." But it lights up when it thinks it has been queried so even mistakes are not hidden and invisible.

One may choose not to have such a device, just as one may choose not to use a credit card which records all one´s purchases and via that there whereabouts. But the fears expressed here often are at best based on misunderstanding of what is being discussed, and quite often on that misunderstanding being at least in part intentional.
15 people like this.

Reply 13 - Posted by: bpl40 4/11/2019 8:22:12 AM (No. 30033)
Don´t even use Google. Install Starting Page.
13 people like this.

Reply 14 - Posted by: Rather Read 4/11/2019 8:36:49 AM (No. 30019)
I have two Amazon Echoes. I find them VERY useful. If I want, I can turn off the microphone, but since I live alone, all that Amazon knows about me is that I am a very quiet person.
16 people like this.

Reply 15 - Posted by: h24015 4/11/2019 8:41:51 AM (No. 30042)
"I´m sorry Dave, I´m afraid I can´t do that"
43 people like this.

Reply 16 - Posted by: Rumblehog 4/11/2019 8:48:06 AM (No. 30034)
And the government (NSA) can also hear everything over your phone, even when you´re not using it.

Had our British overlords had an Obamaphone program back in the day, they wouldn´t have had to quarter troops in the homes of colonists... which eventually gave us our Third Amendment.
12 people like this.

Reply 17 - Posted by: hammondb3 4/11/2019 9:01:13 AM (No. 30016)
The problem is the potential, the ABSOLUTE potential for abuse of this technology on an Orwellian scale.

How many of you would allow a stranger to place a LIVE microphone in your house that is always listening?

Substitute ´Google´ or ´Amazon´ for ´stranger´ and in my opinion the situation becomes worse. A stranger is not a tech behemoth with deep blue liberal blood coursing through its veins.

For that matter... how does Siri differ in any way from Alexa other than Apple´s fairly strong stance on privacy?
18 people like this.

Reply 18 - Posted by: Lawsy0 4/11/2019 9:08:30 AM (No. 30036)
I would say f-word Echo and Alexa both, and anything else Google or Amazon comes up with (they are spamming my cell phone.) I would say it, but since I´m not hooked up, they will just have to use the Vulcan mind-meld and figure it out.
8 people like this.

Reply 19 - Posted by: Yuban 4/11/2019 9:19:32 AM (No. 30043)
LOL, you fine folk are really paranoid. We like our Echo and use it to turn the tv on-off, lights on-off, get the weather, make to do lists, etc etc etc. If you are worried about anyone knowing too much about you, I suggest you stop posting here and on Facebook. LOL, too funny.
9 people like this.

Reply 20 - Posted by: hershey 4/11/2019 9:32:34 AM (No. 30023)
Just because you´re paranoid about people watching/listening, doesn´t mean they aren´t watching/listening...

And this is from the startpage.com site, " So we’re paying them to use their brilliant search results in order to remove all trackers and logs. "...so they are still using Google..do you trust them?

Use yippy.com, or duckduckgo.com or bing.com...

My new Kindle came with Alexa installed...turned it off...unfortunately I can´t delete the app...
14 people like this.

Reply 21 - Posted by: mc squared 4/11/2019 10:00:51 AM (No. 30045)
Here´s a question in logic: If you think your device doesn´t listen until you tell it to ´wake up´, how do you think it hears those words? It´s always on.

And so are Firestick and Firebox from Amazon. There´s a microphone in the top for you to give it commands. Unplug it when it´s not in use.

14 people like this.

Reply 22 - Posted by: joew9 4/11/2019 10:06:14 AM (No. 30021)
My problem is the voice activated devices are always false triggering. The GPS in my car won´t leave me alone. And none of the devices seem to be able to understand my commands. I end up raising my voice until I am yelling at it.
9 people like this.

Reply 23 - Posted by: flutepilot 4/11/2019 11:18:39 AM (No. 30035)
This is exactly why I turn the microphone off when I have gotten my Echo to where I want it, whether active or ´asleep´.
7 people like this.

Reply 24 - Posted by: Redwing57 4/11/2019 11:19:53 AM (No. 30030)
We had an Alexa for a while. It was marginally interesting, asking it for weather and so on. It´s supposed to only respond when addressed. Yeah, right.

One night we were watching a TV show that had a suicide theme. We were talking about it a bit, when suddenly Alexa pipes up, "Suicide prevention resources are available by..." and so on. We looked at each other with big eyes, and I reached down and unplugged the wretched spying device.

We had not asked Alexa any such question. So it clearly is listening for, and can respond to, a variety of trigger words. My life is quite uninteresting, but I seriously don´t want a specific spying device listening for some "wrong think" phrase.

We have a friend who thinks I´m nuts, and uses hers for everything. This is just a further extension of the "boiling frog" theory of privacy invasion.
15 people like this.

Reply 25 - Posted by: Golden Goose 4/11/2019 11:23:37 AM (No. 30044)
My fridge keeps flirting with me.
10 people like this.

Reply 26 - Posted by: DVC 4/11/2019 11:52:52 AM (No. 30037)
#14, you think you can turn off the microphones. I´ll bet you actually are doing nothing but setting it to not respond, to simulate the mic being off, yet still record everything it hears.

Good luck.
14 people like this.

Reply 27 - Posted by: proximo 4/11/2019 12:38:09 PM (No. 30026)
According to Apple, the only thing on an iPhone that is listening all the time is the separate small processor used for fingerprint/facial recognition on those models that support that. You train it to recognize "Hey Siri" in your voice and when it hears it it powers up the phone´s main processor where Siri takes over.

Occasionally, Siri will wake up when I haven´t said "Hey Siri" but that´s pretty rare and I can just turn it off.

Tools like this can be very useful. At some point you have to trust the maker. I trust Apple with my privacy far more than I trust Amazon or Google.
9 people like this.

Reply 28 - Posted by: Strike3 4/11/2019 12:52:01 PM (No. 30027)
#22, just like having the wife in the car with you!
7 people like this.

Reply 29 - Posted by: NessunDorma 4/11/2019 1:15:20 PM (No. 30031)
You will never find Alexa, nor any of her friends, in my home. That means I´m not able to buy Amazon electronics that feature remote control because they all come with Alexa. I wonder if Amazon knows just how many consumers out here feel exactly the same.
8 people like this.

Reply 30 - Posted by: DVC 4/11/2019 1:52:54 PM (No. 30039)
#27, great story Apple marketing tells there. And some folks even believe it.

Grin.
8 people like this.

Reply 31 - Posted by: JHHolliday 4/11/2019 1:59:36 PM (No. 30018)
I have the small one. It´s kind of nice to call up a song and listen but that´s all we use it for. We unplug it after every use. I assume that stops it from listening. I also use DuckDuckGo and AVG Smart Search. I am not up to anything. Just don´t like to be tracked. It´s also a good idea to empty your history and cookie cache every day. Never use Google. They track your every move plus putting conservative sites way down in their suggested order.
7 people like this.

Reply 32 - Posted by: DynomiteThings 4/11/2019 7:03:46 PM (No. 30038)
Like most of you I wouldn´t put an Echo or Alexa device in my home, I don´t own a "smart" TV, and I block the camera on my computer. I do, however, own a smartphone and goodness knows what that thing does without my knowledge!
5 people like this.

Reply 33 - Posted by: Deborah Grannet 4/12/2019 2:10:16 PM (No. 30017)
Well, #s 10, 19, 24, 27, 32, et al.-- better gird your loins-- with the coming of Smart Meters and 5G, you are going to be so intertwined with invasive technology that you will be carried along in the roaring flood whether you like it or not.
0 people like this.

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