Saturday 21 September 2019

The Big Tech Show: Yes, Amazon is listening in on us

Amazon’s Echo smart speaker
Amazon’s Echo smart speaker
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

So now we know: Amazon is listening to our conversations. Some of its staff are told to listen in to what we tell the Amazon Echo to do.

The company has been very secretive about this. But after a Bloomberg story delved into it, the company admitted that it listens to a small percentage of voice recordings to help its artificial intelligence figure out things like accents better.

But that’s not all the workers hear. Some say that they have picked up disturbing things, like assaults. But they’re told not to do anything about it.

There are a whole host of issues that crop up around this.

Is it okay for Amazon staff to physically listen to our voice commands, even if it’s just for quality control?

Do we believe them that it’s just for quality control?

And a longer term, thornier issue arises -- what responsibility, if any, does a platform have if it detects something like a sexual assault?

Joining Adrian to discuss this in depth is Patricia Scanlon, the founder and chief executive of Soapbox Labs, which specialises in childrens’ speech technology and artificial intelligence.

Online Editors

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