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Luxembourg’s privacy watchdog is quizzing Amazon over storing user recordings

The Commission hasn't yet made the investigation formal.
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Luxembourg’s National Data Protection Commission (CNDP), the regulatory body that supervises the company in the EU, is conducting investigations into its practices on behalf of the member states of the Union.

A formal privacy investigation has not launched yet, but a spokesperson from Commission said that citizens have the power to “file a complaint with our authority or [their] national supervisory authority” in case of concerns, adding that no further comment could be made as the watchdog is “bound by the obligation of professional secrecy”.

Amazon did not comment.

The concerns about Alexa recordings arose following April’s report who had spoken with one of the workers employed to transcribe audio clips for the company.

The recordings had been, in some cases, triggered by Alexa’s software mistakes in understanding the command used to restrict when audio is sent back to Amazon. The report mentions instances of everyday conversations as well as cases of suspected domestic violence had been recorded and reviewed.

Amazon uses human reviewers to back up its voice recognition AI’s accuracy and to develop new features. The workforce is partly located in Amazon’s own office, but many outsourced contractors have been hired and encouraged to work from home.

Last week, Amazon implemented an option in Alexa’s smartphone app for users to opt-out from having their recordings added to relevant databases.

“The voice recordings from customers who use this opt-out are also excluded from our supervised learning workflows that involve manual review of an extremely small sample of Alexa requests. We’ll also be updating information we provide to customers to make our practices more clear,” the firm explained in a statement.

According to a spokesperson’s statement to the BBC, the move was not related to CNPD’s supervision.

Apple and Google also said they had suspended human revisions of the recordings made respectively by Siri and Assistant across the EU. Both companies are under supervision by Ireland’s data watchdog.

A watchdog’s spokesperson told the BBC it has contact with both firms.

“The Data Protection Commission is engaging with both Google and Apple to establish further details on the processing of personal data in the context of the manual transcription of audio recordings collected by these companies’ digital assistants, and to establish how the companies concerned believe that such processing of data is compliant with their GDPR [General Data Protection Regulation] obligations, further to which we will be making our assessments and conclusions.”

“We note that both companies have ceased this processing, Google from mid-July and Apple in recent days.”

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