16 votes

Amazon workers are listening to what you tell Alexa

5 comments

  1. [5]
    alyaza Link
    this presumably doesn't come as a shock to people and they ostensibly do this to improve voice recognition, but obviously it's a matter of debate whether or not this is a thing they should...

    this presumably doesn't come as a shock to people and they ostensibly do this to improve voice recognition, but obviously it's a matter of debate whether or not this is a thing they should actually be allowed to do in the first place.

    [sidenote: obviously there's the answer of "well, people shouldn't be speaking personal things into alexa" and "people shouldn't have alexas" and whatnot, but the reality is people do, and the enlightened bearer of such arguments is probably not going to stop the adoption of such technology into the common household or people from speaking things into it they probably shouldn't, so no offense, but there probably needs to be a slightly deeper conversation on it than telling people to throw their 200 dollar talking hockey puck into the trash, because i doubt people are going to just do that.]

    4 votes
    1. [2]
      Rez Link Parent
      Devices like these were also the subject of insane holiday shopping pushes and discounts. They were high dollar gifts, impressing recipients who are even slightly touched by having x dollars spent...

      200 dollar talking hockey puck

      Devices like these were also the subject of insane holiday shopping pushes and discounts. They were high dollar gifts, impressing recipients who are even slightly touched by having x dollars spent on them. Despite that value, they're also generically useful enough and unadopted that you could give it to almost any person. You didn't need to know the specific, expensive things they need for their hobbies, and a person is likely to already own the other general use electronics in that price range. Because it's a high dollar gift, people will feel too guilty about throwing it away, and so most will try it out of respect and curiosity now that it's come to them for free. And because it was gifted to them, they won't be nearly as familiar with the background of the technology and how Amazon et. al. might be listening. And then if your partner, parent, whoever gets one and likes it, but you don't, what are you gonna do, have a big fight over it or just tolerate its presence? These dynamics were quite purposefully leveraged by smart speaker device makers to get their products into as many homes as possible and to facilitate their acceptance. Whatever "consent" they gather is mostly just a smoke screen to give them a veneer of legal legitimacy they can point to when things go wrong to make you feel like an idiot who has to resign themselves to that outcome for having accepted it despite all the psychological tricks they use to encourage adoption.

      8 votes
      1. kfwyre Link Parent
        We did a pricey "Yankee swap"-style gift exchange with my siblings and in-laws this past Christmas, and there were a Google Home and an Amazon Echo in the mix. My brother very much wanted the...

        We did a pricey "Yankee swap"-style gift exchange with my siblings and in-laws this past Christmas, and there were a Google Home and an Amazon Echo in the mix. My brother very much wanted the Echo, but his wife did NOT want it in their house. Meanwhile, my sister did NOT want the Home, but her husband did. Both naysayers ended up caving when their spouses ended the game with their desired devices. Like you said, nobody's going to just toss an expensive device, and reselling it is a pain.

        I consider myself lucky that my husband doesn't want one in our home either.

        4 votes
    2. [2]
      Gaywallet Link Parent
      Given that it's not obviously clear that you are consenting to this happening, I don't think it's really a debate. It likely violates consent laws on audio recordings in many states and countries...

      it's a matter of debate whether or not this is a thing they should actually be allowed to do in the first place.

      Given that it's not obviously clear that you are consenting to this happening, I don't think it's really a debate. It likely violates consent laws on audio recordings in many states and countries around the world.

      Personally, I don't really care that they are, what I care about is that it's not made absolutely clear that this is happening in the first place. I feel similarly about many invasive apps on the phone that ask for permissions to do things that they really shouldn't be doing in the first place.

      6 votes
      1. 9000 Link Parent
        This is a fascinating argument that I don't think I've heard before. I wonder if someone like the EU would be willing to take this argument to court? I know that you didn't mean this literally,...

        It likely violates consent laws on audio recordings in many states and countries around the world.

        This is a fascinating argument that I don't think I've heard before. I wonder if someone like the EU would be willing to take this argument to court?

        that this is happening in the first place.

        I know that you didn't mean this literally, but if we're talking in terms of consent, I think the picture gets even fuzzier. For instance, if I own an Alexa and Amazon has received sufficient consent from me to record me and listen to my recordings, but a guest who comes over interacts with it without sufficiently informed consent, what then? Even if Amazon got my consent in the first place when I set it up, that doesn't feel transitive to my guest. It would be recklessly tedious to ask for confirmation before every interaction (GDPR cookie consents, anyone?). In theory, they could use something like Google's voice fingerprinting to determine if an individual has consented or not, but I don't know if that's actually better from a privacy perspective.

        6 votes