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Amazon offers Alexa users the ability to stop humans from listening in

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Amazon has given people that use its Alexa virtual assistant the option to prevent humans from listening to their voice commands, but has said it is not halting manual reviews altogether in Europe.

Amazon made the move soon after Apple and Google were forced to suspend human reviews of voice commands, following concerns from privacy advocates last week. Google has been ordered to stop listening to voice recordings in the EU for three months, while Germany's data watchdog investigates privacy concerns.

Amazon also pledged to provide clearer information on its recording review practices, although it will not follow Apple and Google in suspending the practice altogether of using human reviewers to analyse a small percentage of recordings.

Alexa users can turn off human review by disabling a setting labelled 'Help improve Amazon services and develop new features' on the Alexa privacy page of their Amazon account.

Users can access this through the settings menu on the Alexa app in a section labelled Alexa privacy.

A company spokesperson said: “We take customer privacy seriously and continuously review our practices and procedures. For Alexa, we already offer customers the ability to opt out of having their voice recordings used to help develop new Alexa features.

“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.”

All three firms said a fraction of recorded interactions with Apple’s Siri, the Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa were used to improve the language understanding of their software, grade the assistant’s responses and help improve their performance.

Multiple reports on the issue claimed that staff and contractors on the various schemes often heard parts of private conversations during their analysis.

Apple’s contractor supposedly heard recordings which sometimes included highly personal data such as medical information, drug deals or the sound of people having sex.

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