Bloomberg Businessweek published an interesting article regarding the privacy concerns about Amazon Alexa devices and several other smart speakers. However, the featured illustration that accompanies the post has given a lot to talk about in the past 24 hours… But for all the wrong reasons.
The featured image consists of an Amazon Echo speaker opening in half and revealing an ear inside, which is supposed to represent tech companies eavesdropping on their users without their knowledge. As it turns out, many readers have pointed out that the illustration resembles more of a sex toy than anything else.
People now call it “Alexa Fleshlight”
Right now users on Twitter are cracking up in laughter and no one can take the picture seriously.
Thank you, Bloomberg Businessweek, for making the phrase “Jeff Bezos Fleshlight” materialize in my mind pic.twitter.com/Pv16aEJbwP
— Joe Bernstein (@Bernstein) December 11, 2019
incredible, alexa now comes with fleshlight mode https://t.co/oiX2LI8kce
— Samantha Cole (@samleecole) December 11, 2019
This is exactly why I don’t have an Alexa, Google home or sex with anyone
— Boomer Kingsly (@the_z_a_c_h_) December 11, 2019
Bloomberg has responded to the “criticism” by saying that “It's an EAR, folks”.
Of course, the damage is done and the memes won't stop for a while.
The graphics design team has made a questionable design decision with the animated illustration, no doubt about it, but the article itself is pretty interesting.
The post titled “Silicon Valley Is Listening to Your Most Intimate Moments” – not only ponders on how people have willingly accepted devices equipped with mics into their homes, blindly trusting that tech companies will respect their privacy, but also delves into what lurks on the other side of the fence.
In this sense, the article reminds people that behind Alexa's magic, there is a human component involved. Amazon relies on data associates to train the system; the company has recordings transcribed, annotated and then fed back into the software in order to improve Alexa's ability to understand human speech and respond accordingly to it.
Making the perfect AI is a slow process that requires human contractors that sit for hours listening to random conversations from random people and jotting down every word on the computer.
And it's not as if Amazon is the only company that does that, Google and Apple are also at fault. Actually, one of the most interesting testimonies comes from a former contractor of GlobeTech who transcribed conversations for Siri:
“Contractors who asked managers whether they could skip overly private clips were told no clips were too private.”
Hopefully, this hilarious incident with the “Alexa Fleshlight” will bring more attention to the article and help raise awareness about this topic.