We learned quite recently that Amazon employs “thousands of people” around the world who listen to voice recordings extracted though Echo devices. Another report has shed some new light on the situation as the same Amazon employees listening to your conversations have easy access to your location.
In a report released by Bloomberg, Amazon workers who are assigned to audit user voice recordings captured through Alexa-powered devices also have access to the user’s location. The location data is available to these employees (or in some cases contracted workers) as geographic coordinates which can be easily translated to a simplified location through a third-party mapping software.
In layman’s words, Amazon workers designated to review Alexa recordings can learn your location by entering the geographic coordinates provided to them into an app like Google Maps to know your exact location.
The report detailed that “Amazon employees with access to the data have attempted to track down individual users” as two of these employees expressed their concerns on the wide rollout of these access features. Bloomberg also confirmed that it observed a demo of one of the team members pasting the location coordinates into Google Maps to locate an Alexa user in under one minute.
While it’s unclear how widespread this access to user’s private data is, the two Amazon employees who spoke to Bloomberg said a majority of the works inside the Alexa Data Services group were using the software. These employees do not only have the users’ home addresses but their work addresses, contact numbers and phone numbers of their contacts.
The latest incident comes as a contradiction of what Amazon said after news of employees listening in on your conversations broke out. At that point, Amazon said, “Employees do not have direct access to information that can identify the person or account as part of this workflow”.
In a new statement provided to Bloomberg, Amazon said “Access to internal tools is highly controlled, and is only granted to a limited number of employees who require these tools to train and improve the service by processing an extremely small sample of interactions. Our policies strictly prohibit employee access to or use of customer data for any other reason, and we have a zero tolerance policy for abuse of our systems. We regularly audit employee access to internal tools and limit access whenever and wherever possible”.
Amidst several issues of privacy, the latest streak of incidents asks one important thing – are you willing to give up on your privacy for being able to order something online or play content by just your voice?