Amidst the backlash that tech giants like Amazon, Google, and Apple have received after they are caught storing the recordings made by their respective personal Assistant AIs and using human language experts to transcribe them, Amazon said that they have no plans to stop the practice with their Alexa personal assistant, not even in the near future.
Instead, Amazon’s Senior Vice President Dave Limp announced earlier this week that they are changing several policies regarding user control of the recordings. Limp said that they would set a policy where users can opt-in to an option to automatically delete all the recordings from their Alexa device every duration like three months or 18 months. However, Amazon was also clear that there will be no opt-out for users from the company saving their recordings.
Limp argues that Amazon needs the data that were to be collected from the recordings they have saved from Alexa users will be used to improve and train the artificial intelligence that power the personal Virtual Assistant.
“We don’t keep data for data’s sake,” he said. “We’re very convicted that by keeping this data…it improves the service materially.”
The move of Amazon to include an opt-in to automatic deletion of Alexa recordings goes a long way for users. Before the announcement, users need to delete the recordings in their Alexa devices individually manually. Now, using the Alexa app, users can directly delete them automatically at once.
Nonetheless, Limp said that they would not stop saving the recordings and using the data to improve their services. However, he said that as the AI becomes more intelligent, there will come a time that they won’t be needing the data, thus would probably abandon the practice. He was very clear tho that the time to stop saving user data from Alexa is not now.
“There will be a point in the future, I’m sure of…” says Limp, “we don’t have to annotate the data, that we’ll need less. And when that time comes, we will keep less. And give customers more options, I think, even than we do today.”
The tech triumvirate, Google, Apple, and Amazon, has been in hot water in recent months after they were exposed to be saving “snippets” of recordings from their respective personal assistant apps and devices without the consent nor mere knowledge from the users.
Google has since apologized for the issue especially after one of their ex-employees has inadvertently leaked the recordings to the public. The leak has lead to the discovery that Google has been using human transcribers to treat anonymized recordings from its personal assistant app, Google Assistant.
As a response, Google initially suspended the practice and eventually announced that they had changed their policy for users to have an opt-in system for the company to save and user recordings. This means that Google has set up an option where people need to confirm their agreement that the tech giant can record and listen to their GA recordings. Furthermore, those who have already set up their Google Assistant accounts, Google promised that they would receive a confirmation notice where they can agree (or disagree) to continue allowing Google from saving and using their Google Assistant recordings.
The catch with Google’s move, however, is that if a user decides to turn it off, the user may encounter problems with using Google Assistant. “Google may not understand you when you say ‘OK, Google’ to speak to your Assistant.” Google explained that Assistant will still work, but will not be optimized nor personalized.
Similarly, Apple also apologized for the fact that Siri recordings was also translated by human contract employees. Apple also said that they would no longer continue in doing so and assured users that no other human beings could here their interactions with Siri. However, unlike Google, Apple said that they would continue on recording Siri interaction, but they will no longer be storing them. Apple users will also have to opt-in to the service for monitoring.