Amazon said Friday it will now let customers disable human review of their Alexa recordings, following similar steps by Apple for Siri and Google for its Assistant.
The change follows a series of news stories highlighting how all three of these companies use people to listen to some customer recordings to improve their software. The practice raised privacy concerns from consumers about how their voices and data were being used, and pointed out sometimes uncomfortable situations in which children’s voices or private conversations could be heard in the recordings.
All three of these companies decided to make these changes within the past day, signifying a sudden shift in policy as they work to improve privacy for their voice assistants and respond to a consumer backlash. The move followsto add new privacy features to Alexa, including the ability to delete the day’s voice recordings by simply asking Alexa, instead of visiting Amazon’s site. These changes were likely done to ensure smart speakers and voice assistants could continue proliferating in the tech world and help shore up consumer trust, which was shaken by the series of revelations.
Amazon’s new policy took effect Friday, according to Bloomberg, which first reported this change. said it will suspend its human reviews of Siri recordings worldwide while it conducts a review. Google, too, said it will pause its global human reviews process, after a Google contractor leaked voice recordings to a Belgium-based news organization.
“We take customer privacy seriously and continuously review our practices and procedures,” an Amazon spokesperson said in an emailed statement Friday. “We’ll also be updating information we provide to customers to make our practices more clear.”
Since stories came out this year about human reviews of Alexa recordings, Amazon has repeatedly said that only a small fraction of these recordings are reviewed by people.
To turn off human review of your Alexa recordings, go to the Alexa Privacy settings on Amazon or in the Alexa app. Then go to “Manage How Your Data Improves Alexa” and toggle off the tab saying “Help Improve Amazon Services and Develop New Features.”
On that page, Amazon mentions that “only an extremely small fraction of voice recordings are manually reviewed” and the information is used to improve Alexa services and develop new features. The company warns that turning off this setting may degrade Alexa’s voice recognition and new features.