It is not only Alexa who listens to your conversations with an Echo speaker, but some real humans do too. Amazon has admitted that its employees listen to customer voice recordings from Alexa-enabled smart speakers. The company reportedly uses recordings of conversations to improve speech recognition ability of Alexa.
“This information helps us train our speech recognition and natural language understanding systems, so Alexa can better understand your requests, and ensure the service works well for everyone,” Amazon said in a statement.
Amazon says that its employees don't have direct access to information that can identify the person they are listening to. They have the customer’s first name, account number and the serial number of the Alexa device for each voice clip. The voice clips are used to isolate any words that Alexa has been unable to pick up. Staffs then correct the transcription and feed back the results back into the AI, so that it can understand the user more accurately in the future.
Alexa speakers made by other companies also send voice data for reviewing. However, they appear to be focus more on privacy, at least Apple’s HomePod does. The company assigns a random ID number to each voice clip before it sends for reviewing, giving Amazon employees zero information about the customer.
Amazon does not explicitly state in its terms and conditions that its employees review customer recordings. However, customers do get an option to choose whether or not they want to help the company “develop new features”. While you can't stop Alexa from recording conversations, you can opt out of this service and stop humans from listening to you. Also, you can delete any previous voice recordings in the settings. However, doing so means Alexa won't remember a thing about you preferences, and may fail to provide you best service.
Would you want Amazon to use your voice recordings to improve Alexa's speech recognition abilities?