Do you have a smart speaker or you’re the voice assistant on your phone? Chances are employees or contractors of the companies who make them are listening to parts of your conversations with them. Below are tips to prevent humans from listening.
Why Do Companies Listen Anyway?
Manufacturers will have employees or contractors listen to random parts of conversations with voice assistants or smart speakers. The owner’s information is inaccessible to the reviewers. However, the anonymous recordings measure the performance of the assistant.
For example, if you ask Alexa a question, and it doesn’t understand or gives the wrong answer, it can be noted. The developers get these notes to help improve the assistant’s capability or accuracy. Furthermore, tech companies will use this information for other purposes as well.
Unfortunately, the user allows the company permission to conduct these practices. They are buried deep in the fine print of the Terms & Conditions that you need to agree to when setting up the assistant. This surprises many users, especially when considering what the speaker will pick up and record from being in a room.
Has Anyone Been Busted Listening In?
All companies which offer these services will have someone listening at some point. Google told Wired magazine that employees hear only 0.2% of recordings. Below are a few of the recent stories of these practices:
- August 7, 2019: Motherboard reported that Microsoft contractors are listening to Cortana voice commands and Skype calls.
- July 26, 2019: The Guardian reported that Apple contractors regularly listened to Siri recordings. Contractors commented that they commonly hear drug deals, medical details, and people having sex.
- April 10, 2019: Bloomberg reported that thousands of Amazon workers around the world are listening to Alexa clips.
As a result, Apple and Google, have both temporarily stopped listening to these recordings. Apple said that it would be evaluating the processes. Additionally, Apple also stated that future versions of its operating systems would allow users to opt-out of these practices. Google stated it would stop listening also to review the processes but would pick up again.
Here’s How To Stop Companies From Listening
Firstly, head over to the Activity Controls page for your Google account. Secondly, find the “Voice & Audio Activity” section and hit the toggle to turn this recording function off.
Additionally, to delete the recordings that already have been made, select the “Manage Activity” option under this section. Following this, you can configure the parameters of what Google will be deleting.
Amazon allows users to opt-out of the human review of recordings starting this August. In the Alexa App or Alexa website, find the Settings options. Select the Alexa Privacy > Manage How Your Data Improves Alexa. Disable the option titled: Help Improve Amazon Services and Develop New Features.
To stop human review of your Cortana or Skype calls, head to the Windows PC settings. Navigate to Privacy option then find Speech. Disable the ‘Online speech recognition’ option.
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