Earlier this year, it was reported that Amazon has thousands of employees listening to conversations that users have with the company’s voice assistant Alexa. As it turns out, some of those employees may have access to more than just audio recordings. Some members of Amazon’s Alexa auditing team have access to location data, including the latitude and longitude of users, according to a report from Bloomberg.
The latest report presents potential privacy concerns regarding Amazon’s access to user data. According to the report, the location information provided to employees could be used to track down a person’s home address with relative ease. That could lead to more revealing data, including social media profiles and other information should the employee be inclined to dig into a person’s life. Bloomberg notes that there is no indication that coordinates have been used to pinpoint an individual user, but it’s worth questioning whether the information needs to be provided to people auditing Alexa conversations.
Because employees have access to voice recordings, they could theoretically pair the conversations that people are having with their voice assistant to other information that could be obtained by following the trail of their location data. A previous report about employees listening to Alexa conversations revealed that they sometimes hear what sounds like criminal behavior or other potentially personal activity. The ability to put a name and face to those types of recordings, which users may not be aware are being listened to by humans in the first place, could lead to invasions of privacy.
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.”
According to Amazon, it records location data so Alexa can more accurately answer questions and handle requests that require location-specific context, like the weather in a given city or local business recommendations.
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