BloombergSEATTLE (Bloomberg) — Amazon.com Inc. will let Alexa users opt out of human reviews of their voice recordings, a move that follows criticism that the program violated customers’ privacy.
A new policy took effect Friday that allows customers, through an option in the settings menu of the Alexa smartphone app, to remove their recordings from a pool that could be analyzed by Amazon employees and contract workers, a spokeswoman for the Seattle company said. It follows similar moves by Apple Inc. and Google.
Bloomberg first reported in April that Amazon had a team of thousands of workers around the world listening to Alexa audio requests with the goal of improving the software. Their tasks include listening to and transcribing voice recordings.
Some of the workers reviewing customer recordings had access to certain personal data, including users’ first names and their location.
At the time, Amazon and people familiar with the program said only a small sample of recordings were manually reviewed. Bloomberg reported that similar human reviews are used for Alphabet Inc.’s Google Assistant and Apple’s Siri. Recent news reports elaborated on the extent of those companies’ review programs.
Google’s decision to halt its review process was disclosed after a German privacy regulator started investigating the program. Apple said it was suspending its manual review of Siri queries on Thursday. Amazon declined to comment on whether the company had been contacted by regulators about its program.