Amazon Alexa: Luxembourg watchdog in discussions about recordings

Amazon Alexa: Luxembourg watchdog in discussions about recordings

Luxembourg’s data privacy watchdog says it is in discussions with Amazon about voice recordings made of customers who have used the firm’s Alexa smart assistant.

The regulator is the lead supervisory authority for the company in the EU, meaning that it co-ordinates investigations into the business on behalf of the other member states.

At this point it has not launched a formal privacy probe.

Amazon declined to comment.

But a spokesman for the National Data Protection Commission (CNPD) said that citizens could “file a compliant with our authority or his/her national supervisory authority” if they had concerns.

“Unfortunately, at this stage, we cannot comment further about this case as we are bound by the obligation of professional secrecy,” he added.

Concern about Alexa recordings came to light in April after the news agency Bloomberg spoke to staff who had transcribed clips for the firm.

It said the recordings had sometimes been triggered by Amazon’s smart speakers mishearing the command that is supposed to restrict when audio is transmitted back to the firm. It reported they had included everyday conversations as well as instances of suspected sexual assault.
Amazon says it uses human reviewers to improve its voice recognition tech’s accuracy as well as to develop new features.

While some of this work is done in Amazon’s own offices, it has emerged that some outsourced contractors have been encouraged to do the transcriptions from home.

In June, Amazon’s Alexa chief Dave Limp told the BBC that only a fraction of 1% of Alexa recordings were checked by humans.

But he acknowledged that the firm’s terms and conditions could have been “more specific” to make clear that the audio could be subject to human review.

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