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Amazon staff can tie your Alexa recordings to your home address, new investigation shows

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Amazon staff can tie the recordings of Alexa commands to users’ home addresses – that’s according to a new Bloomberg report.

A group of Amazon’s staff has been tasked with transcribing and analyzing a select portion of Alexa voice commands from Amazon Echo users. It’s now been revealed that not only do these staff have access to the recordings, they also have access to data that ties those recordings to data that allows them to find that user’s home address in some cases.

According to the report, associated with some recordings is a set of specific coordinates that, if entered into any mapping software, would reveal the exact location that the Echo user was at when they gave their command to Amazon’s notorious assistant, Alexa.

The report raises many concerns about such broad access to user data that Amazon appears to have given its staff access to, cementing the idea that such invasive technology may not be worth the convenience.

What’s worse is that, according to Bloomberg, the employees are not supposed to talking about how much access they have to Echo users’ data as they’ve been made to sign non-disclosure agreements by Amazon – meaning that they could face legal trouble for speaking about Amazon’s invasive practices.

According to the report, there isn’t yet any evidence to suggest that Amazon employees have used the data that they have access to in order to find out any address associated with an Alexa command recording, but the fact that it’s possible at have raised some eyebrows.

On its own, Alexa commands may not necessarily reveal too much private information about a user. Most people use Echos for just checking the news, playing music and finding out information about random facts. However, the collection of location data is considered much more invasive as it then allows Amazon’s staff to actively associate those recording files to an actual user by revealing their address.

“Anytime someone is collecting where you are, that means it could go to someone else who could find you when you don’t want to be found,” she said. Widespread access to location data associated with Alexa user recordings “would set up a big red flag for me.” Lindsey Barrett, a staff attorney and teaching fellow at Georgetown Law’s Communications and Technology Clinic said to Bloomberg.

In an April 10 statement acknowledging the Alexa auditing program, Amazon said: “Employees do not have direct access to information that can identify the person or account as part of this workflow.”

This statement was given as a response to a previous report that suggested that Amazon staff were actually listening to recordings – something that many smart-speaker enthusiasts said would never and could never happen.

In a new statement responding to this story, 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.”

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