Are Google & Amazon Listening to Your Voice Recordings?

The answer is yes. First Amazon, followed by Google – both the companies have admitted that they are listening via their respective gadgets. So, here is what we know and what we think you should know about it:

Coming to Amazon first, here’s what their spokesperson had to say “We only annotate an extremely small sample of Alexa voice recordings in order improve the customer experience. For example, 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 employees cannot access the accounts related to these recordings.

On the other hand, Google claims that only 0.2% of the recordings are heard and the user information is not disclosed. “As part of our work to develop speech technology for more languages, we partner with language experts around the world who understand the nuances and accents of a specific language,” says David Monsees, product manager for Google Search.

Can 3rd Party access these recordings?

This is one area that there’s no clarity either from Amazon or Google. Google’s privacy policy has contradictory statements. For instance, Google claims it would not use audio recordings for ad personalization. But when you use Google Assistant, Google may use the recordings “to inform your interests for ad personalization.”

When you scroll through Google’s overall privacy policy, you will find:

“We do not share information that personally identifies you with advertisers, such as your name or email unless you ask us to. For example, if you see an ad for a nearby flower shop and select the ‘tap to call’ button, we will connect your call and may share your phone number with the flower shop.” It still does not clarify the questions regarding Google Assistant audio recordings conundrum.

Coming to Amazon, the spokesperson had to say “No audio recordings are shared with third parties. If you use a third-party service through Alexa, we will exchange related information with that third party so they may provide the service. For example, if you interact with a third-party Alexa skill, we provide the content of your requests (but not the voice recordings) to the skill so the skill can respond accordingly.” There is no mention if Amazon shares your data or recordings to third parties.

In the end, it boils down to your preference. If you are okay with your data being used against the comfort smart speakers provide, then you can continue using it. 🙂