The creation of the Amazon Echo in 2017 introduced a lifestyle of ease and innovation. The simple commands of asking Alexa to play a song or create a to-do list was a pure stroke of genius. Yet, recent investigations suggest that Alexa is not the only one listening to our commands, but Amazon employees are specifically hired to record our conversations.
Recent reports say that thousands of Amazon employees are hired with the task of listening to our conversation to analyze Alexa’s response and help improve the technology’s grasp of human speech. Although there is reportedly an extremely small portion of users being listened to, some of the conversations overheard include “possibly criminal” interactions such as potential sexual assault. If an analyst is being paid to listen to our private conversations and become a bystander to a possible account of sexual assault, then they are committing a crime far worse than a breach of privacy: they are consciously allowing someone to be hurt and violated.
Although this may not come as a shock to many people that they are being listened to when talking to Alexa, there is an undeniable human right to privacy that is recklessly being neglected and abused. Analyzing conversations to improve Alexa’s detection of human speech is quite reasonable. However, listening to criminal acts being committed and remaining stagnant is inexcusable. If Amazon is so concerned about Alexa’s ability to interact with its users, then the company should be just as concerned about the user’s safety, especially when they are already invading their privacy. Users should not have to sacrifice confidentiality and a sense of safety in their home in order for Amazon to improve their technological advancements. If Amazon wishes to improve Alexa’s ability to recognize and respond to human speech, they should create trials in a controlled laboratory rather than individual’s homes.
As a company valued at one trillion dollars, investing in research and development should not be of concern. Speaking in terms that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos may better understand, the benefits of allowing users to retain their basic right to privacy outweighs the costs of the necessary research and development to maintain a reputable company. Echo users do not need better speech recognition; they need Amazon to have a greater sense of respect for their customers and their conversations. Amazon needs to stop listening to our conversations and start being aware of their violating tendencies.