First Google, then Apple, and now Amazon: all three are bowing to pressure from the EU over the issue of humans reviewing recordings from their respective digital assistants. While Apple and Google paused human review, Amazon has decided to offer a clearer, more comprehensive opt-out setting to Alexa users.
Amazon already offered a much clearer set of privacy policies than either Google or Apple — having set up a privacy portal after the last round of scandals over Alexa voice recordings revealed more than most realized. That portal now has updated language around what checking certain boxes will do.
Specifically, you can go to your Amazon Alexa app and navigate to your settings, then “Alexa Privacy” and finally “Manage How Your Data Improves Alexa,” and find new language on that page that now specifically calls out that “your voice recordings may be used to develop new features and manually reviewed to help improve our services” (emphasis ours).
You can also find that page via your web browser, here: https://www.amazon.com/alexaprivacysettings.
Bloomberg first reported the change earlier today. An Amazon spokesperson provided the following statement:
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.
That clarity is much needed, as earlier language made it appear that unchecking a box turned off uploading of your voice recordings — that is not the case, as they’re still uploaded to Amazon’s servers. The only change is that while the old setting only opted users out of having their utterances reviewed “to help develop new features,” the new setting means they will not be reviewed by humans, full stop.
In essence, Amazon has updated its settings and the language around them to actually do what you would have assumed they would have done in the first place.
Amazon does offer a tool to let users delete their voice recordings whenever they wish, but even with these new settings Amazon will still store recordings of your voice by default. If you want to delete them, you will need to periodically go into your Alexa settings and do so yourself.
Apple has paused human review of utterances entirely across the globe, Google has paused it in the EU, and Amazon is simply offering this clearer opt-out. All three companies have a different approach to handling this growing worry about human reviewers, and hopefully all three will eventually end up in the same place: clearer disclosures, transparent options for managing data, and the ability to not have your voice automatically stored if you don’t want it to be.